Ghost of a Dream: I know of a place where they perform miracles at the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington

Burnaway | March 2024

By Laurel V. McLaughlin

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Hazy images are “arranged and layered,” congealing in whisps of smoke that edge near the pitch of a mountain, and another curve of an orange sun on the upper corner of the print on dibond I know a place where they perform miracles, 2023. I saw this same sun in 2021 when ash rained down on the Pacific Northwest and obscured Mt. Hood, casting a blood orange expanse across an otherwise gray Portland sky. I do not know if one such image of the Pacific Northwest is buried in the blur of composite images. In fact, looking at the larger series “Is this Paradise…” (all 2023), the collaborative duo Ghost of a Dream, comprised of Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom, anonymize the sources of the images within a collective whole—a whole seemingly devoid of paradise and miracles. They employ an opposite strategy in the multi-channel projection installation aligned by the sun (within the revolution) (2023), detailing hundreds of collaborators in meticulously denoted text panels. This careful revelation of the singular and collective in the exhibition I know a place where they perform miracles on view at MOCA Arlington, January 20–March 17, 2024, confronts the flattening affect of present-day image regimes—too often wielded on whims by suspect sources. The works ultimately delve into a dialectic density of twenty-first century environmental crises.

Whereas the early 2000s and 2010s might have been mired in debates concerning the realities of climate change, Ghost of a Dream’s large-scale photographs in the series “Is this paradise…” encourage viewers to think beyond this loaded terminology and surface knowledge, investigating the layers of its calamity, and, as catalog essayist Julie Reiss notes, “duration” it takes to create these environment crises and also to view them through Ghost of a Dream’s layered strategy. They gradually gathered the images from then-current news, removing them from their original contexts and re-siting them in compounded images. In the context of MOCA Arlington—in which multiple simultaneous local and international artist residencies, exhibitions, and hundreds of community-based programs take place per year—and the liberal suburb of Washington DC, I know a place where they perform miracles seems surprisingly less like a challenge to audiences than an invitation to meditate on human roles and possible action.