Parallax describes how an object appears to change position when viewed from different vantage points, as in the viewfinder of a camera or when a star is seen from two different places in Earth’s orbit. As an astronomical term and a metaphor for shifting perspectives, parallax reminds us that no two cultures, nations, or minds perceive the apparently “universal” universe in the same way. Parallax: Framing the Cosmos presents outer space as a backdrop for understanding ourselves, interrogating both individual quests for unique places in space and culturally specific myths, including the US nationalist fantasy of conquering the moon and stars on behalf of “all mankind.” The exhibition offers interdisciplinary insights into and meditations on the particular and the universal, the past and the future, the eternal and the mutable, the intimate and the infinite, encouraging us to consider our own personal, national, emotional, and creative selves in the context of a greater universe.
Parallax presents conceptual, experimental, and documentary photography; textiles; scientific and artistic prints and drawings; sculpture; and painting, including many recent acquisitions to the Tang collection that will be displayed publicly for the first time. With a focus on the United States’ relationship to space travel—explored through hundreds of NASA press photographs—the exhibition will further our understandings of identity formation in relation to the cosmos and suggest ways of seeing and behaving differently in the universe we share.