One theme that recurs through Tavares Strachan’s collages (along with rastafarianism, sports, and polar exploration) is that of space travel; astronauts and fiery space rockets feature in several works. Following a grant from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Art + Technology Lab in 2014, Strachan was offered the opportunity to work with SpaceX, the private aerospace technology company. He began research into Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African-American astronaut, who died in a training accident in 1967, and who has remained largely invisible in standard histories of American space travel. The outcome of this project is exhibited in the Arsenale.
The artwork presented in the Central Pavilion is connected to the concept of print encyclopaedia: today, in the age of the Internet and Wikipedia, it is doubly redundant. Its most famous manifestation, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, first published in 1768, nevertheless clings to a certain old-world authority. Growing up in the Bahamas – formerly a British colony – Tavares Strachan came to understand the Encyclopaedia Britannica as a tool of imperial conquest, one that appropriates (and condenses) knowledge as a means of signalling cultural domination. Strachan became interested in everything the encyclopaedia left out.