Why artist and engineer Xin Liu sent her wisdom tooth into outer space

By Deborah Vankin

Artist and engineerXin Liu put herself out there for her “Living Distance” project — literally. The New York- and Beijing-based artist packed up her wisdom tooth and sent it into outer space in a custom machine built from robotics materials. The tooth launched from Van Horn, Texas, in May 2019 aboard an early iteration of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.In zero gravity, the machine and the tooth floated around, freely, inside the rocket.

Wait, what?

It’s all in the name of art. The tooth is part of the sculptural installation “Synthetic Wilderness,” on viewat Culver City’s Honor Fraser Gallery through Dec. 18. The three-artist show, which includes L.A.-based Nancy Baker Cahill and New York-based LaJuné McMillian, blends digital media with more traditional art forms. It toggles between augmented reality, performance, immersive drawings, and video and digital photography, among other areas. The exhibitoccupies a hybrid space, both analog and digital, meant to reflect the “new terrain,” as exhibition curator Jesse Damiani puts it, that is the 2020s  a tumultuous and uncertain period marked by trauma, pronounced bewilderment and rapid change.

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