'Flying Saucers Are Real!' Brings UFO Conspiracy Theories To Milk Gallery
Last night, the Milk Gallery welcomed a new exhibit, Flying Saucers Are Real!. And in keeping with the theme, the crowd in attendance showed up in getups that looked especially metallic. Tin foil hats, tin foil antennae, even tin foil glasses could be sighted atop the clutter of humans gathered to see cyberpunk novelist Jack Womack‘s fringe collection of books, pamphlets, and ephemera. Put together by Milk Gallery, Boo-Hooray, and the newly-formed Anthology Editions, the exhibit anticipates the September launch of Womack’s book of the same name: an assemblage of artwork, blueprints, and batshit-insane theories from decades’ worth of UFO conspiracists.
First, some background. In 1964, after watching a morning broadcast on UFOs in his home state of Kentucky, Womack went out and picked up his first volume of Roswellian “nonfiction.” He read it, reread it, and then reread it again. From there, he started grabbing every UFO-related book he could get his hands on, cultivating a scholarly knowledge on mass hysteria and dystopian otherworlds that eventually informed his award-winning “Dryco” series of novels. “That’s how I got my sense of wonder,” Womack explained to me last night. UFO books were “better fiction than they should be,” surreal, firsthand accounts buoyed by anecdotal evidence and an insular team of pseudoscientists.
Now, after over a half-century of collecting, Womack’s library is ready for public consumption. Curated by Johan Kugelberg, a celebrated academic of mid-to-late 20th century subcultures (and a frequent Milk Gallery collaborator), the exhibit shows how eagerly UFOlogists detach fiction from science fiction. Kugelberg explains, “The UFO cult is a real snapshot of how misinformation works—how a belief system can translate into pseudoscience, or something that has to be presented as fact, even though it is ultimately faith-based.”
Nowhere is that leap of faith more evident than in Flying Saucers Are Real! The library offers visitors their first step towards UFO truth, with various books associating flying saucers with Elvis, cattle mutilations, and, in keeping with every post-WWII conspiracy, Nazis. The gallery presents mass-market, sexploitation paperbacks (Those Sexy Saucer People), alongside flimsy, homemade pamphlets. Several of the illustrations are super-sized, allowing onlookers to dig deep into the mechanics of UFO blueprints, or peer into the unfeeling, clay-colored eyes of an alien (How to Contact Space People).
Such preservation is necessary work—the artists and writers behind this gallery are almost wholly amateurs, unbeknownst to all save the most fanatic of UFOlogists. But they’re all worth seeing. Like early Star Trek set designs, there is much charm to be found in the sci-fi schlock of alien encounters on display. Beam us up.
All photos taken exclusively for Milk by Zlatko Batistich.
Stay tuned to Milk for more otherworldly adventures.