“The alien, the industrial & the natural…”

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“In Dan Holdsworth’s latest series Transmission: New Remote Earth Views, he appropriates topographical data to document the ideologically and politically loaded spaces of the American West in an entirely new way. In his images of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mount Shasta, Mount St. Helens, Salt Lake City and Park City, we see stark, uninterrupted terrains where meaning is made through what it is absent, as much as what is seen. What at first appears to be a pure white snow-capped mountain is in fact a digitally rendered laser scan of the earth appropriated from United States Geological Survey data, a ‘terrain model’ used to measure climate and land change – to measure man’s effect on the earth. Belying his empirical methodology is the fact that each of these terrains has a rich and conflicting cultural legacy. Beginning with the idealised aesthetic of the Romantic sublime via the deadpan industrial frames of the New Topographics photographers a century later, each has been subject to the gaze of artistic, political, and sociological categories claiming this territory as their own. Extending ideas of the frontier and seeing anew, Transmission captures the world as if from space, functioning not only as a map of the land but as a mapping of the discourses that these lands have come to represent. Working outside of the wilderness myths that render the images from the photographic avant-garde the ‘after’ to nineteenth-century visions of Carlton Watkins’ ‘before’, Holdsworth opens up a working territory that is open to the ambiguous and ethereal, oscillating between realms of art and science, the familiar and the alien, the industrial and the natural…”

Text & Pic: Dan Holdsworth, Transmission: New Remote Earths, 2012.

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Cartesian Rigour

“…In order to feed, maintain and entertain ever-growing cities, the countryside is becoming a colossal back-of-house, organised with relentless Cartesian rigour. That system, not always pleasant, is proliferating on an unprecedented scale. The resulting transformation is radical and ubiquitous, and manifests itself in different ways around the world.

“In America, for example, a zone runs through the middle of the country where satellite information has a direct impact on agriculture. Deep knowledge of every square inch of the earth is transmitted to the laptop of the farmer. The laptop is the new ground. From the laptop, the farmer feeds the data to a robotised tractor. Each season, an armada of sophisticated harvesters so big and expensive that they need to be shared and work 24 hours a day, operates almost like a military campaign, moving slowly from south to north as the temperature increases to create a linear tabula rasa, dividing America in two halves.

“Russia offers a different example. With the embrace of the market economy, only a fraction of Aeroflot’s once-extensive network of air routes remains. Cities that were once connected are now condemned to return to the 19th century and have to find new purposes. The results surprised. Sometimes it has led to an increased sense of serenity: making the best of an involuntary off-grid condition, a proliferation of museums, where every provincial knick-knack is valued. Superimposed on all this is the impact of global warming: melting permafrost in the north, destroying structures and infrastructure, with new territories becoming suitable for agriculture and shifting a large area of farming to the north.

“Other examples of the countryside’s transformation range from the opportunities in Germany to channel refugees to revive moribund, half-abandoned regions to the impact of Chinese railways that transform the heart of Africa. Then there are the sweeping effects of grand political redesign, not just under dictators such as Stalin and Mao but also under the European Union’s common agricultural policy. In short, for better or worse (often both) the countryside has been completely involved in modernisation, on a global scale.”

Text: Rem Koolhaas, The Future is in the Countryside. The New Statesman.

Pic: Disney Epcot Center, concept art.