Black and white still from the video installation showing a ghostly woman floating above a man reclining on a couch, both surrounded by abstract, organic shapes.

The Aorta of an Archivist

Larry & Barbara Marshall Family Balcony, 404

In conjunction with the exhibition Healing, Knowing, Seeing the Body, the Spencer Museum of Art commissioned Houston-based transdisciplinary artist Dario Robleto to create a new work of art: The Aorta of an Archivist. This immersive sound and video installation connects Robleto’s deep and longstanding research on the cosmos, the human heart, and the history of recording. The work is framed by the concept of the “unobservable universe,” an astronomical phenomenon with profound consequences: Because the universe is expanding so quickly, light from the stars rapidly moving away from Earth will no longer be able to reach even our strongest telescopes. The cosmos has presented us with an observational threshold that seems impermeable.

The Aorta of an Archivist reminds us that we have continually crossed boundaries that once seemed impassable, especially with respect to our bodies. The film goes on to trace three “firsts” in the history of recording bodies: the first time live music and singing were recorded, the first time brain waves were recorded in a dream state, and the first time a human heartbeat was recorded while listening to music. These stories are told through narration, sound, and visuals drawn from a variety of sources, including still images of historic events, footage from NASA, and photographs of experiments Robleto conducted in a makeshift laboratory. Through complex layering and the deliberate confusion of scale, the film prompts viewers to question what is known and unknown, knowable and unknowable—to ask where our observational limits lie.

This project is generously funded by Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the state arts agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is also supported by the Linda Inman Bailey Exhibitions Fund, Anne and Charles Rhoades, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, KU Research Investment Council, the Spencer Museum of Art Marilyn Stokstad Directorship Fund, and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. 


Selected images