click on image to enlarge
- Stranger in a Strange Land
- Steel, crystacal lamina, fibreglass, epoxy resin, pigments, pencil, digital print
- 42cm x 38cm x 43cm
Karen Tang’s sculpture Stranger in a Strange Land shares a title with the 1961 cult science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. Heinlein’s plot pivots around the advanced Martian concept of "grok". Although grokking cannot be described truly in any terrestrial language, it roughly means: "to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the process being observed - to merge, to blend, to intermarry, to lose personal identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science ... It means ‘fear,’ it means ‘love,’ it means ‘hate’ ... it means ‘to cherish’" (Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein). Symbolising grokking, Tang’s sculpture formally joins variously shaped conduits into a united entity or landscape. The book’s cover illustration celebrates one protagonist’s love of Rodin, and its submergence in a sculptural lake alludes to the Martian ritual of "sharing water", which results in a bond of friendship. In Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein debates politics, philosophy, religion, economics, art and freedom. He examines contemporary attitudes to endeavour, success and failure, and the book is associated with the 1960’s free love movement.