“We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical.”

 

1436091867886

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits.

2010628a1

2010632a1

Text: Outer Limits, opening narration.

Pics: “Luminant Point Arrays is a photographic series of old tube televisions taken at the very moment they are switched off. The TV picture breaks down and is abstracted to its essential element: light. This abstraction also results in the collapse of the external reference. Each of these photographs is from a different TV, but it’s also the length of exposure, timing, and time the TV has been running before the photo is taken that affects the results.” – Stephen Tillmans, Leuchtpunktordnungen. 

Advertisements

Bleached Tones and Bright Lights

“A sense of the uncanny also appears in the voyeuristic angles and subtle compositional discord. An eeriness therefore lingers in the atmosphere of the exhibition, with its associations with JG Ballard, David Lynch, surveillance, and even Lana Del Rey. This is a city, Ruscha’s photographs and paintings seem to say, where bad things happen, and where secrets are kept. The bleached tones and bright lights give the impression of concealment; the surfaces are too clean to be real, and the scenes too empty to be lifelike.  This Hollywood is so reduced and abstracted that a sense of death permeates, in the two-dimensional, impossible landscapes and the sidewalks without footprints.

d8bc9db61df3b2c2e41575081de294f3

“Ruscha pays homage to JG Ballard in particular, quoting from his novel High-Rise (1975) in the largescale work, The Music from the Balconies (1984). In Ballard’s dystopian novel, the inhabitants of a high-rise apartment block descend into chaos and primal urges, communicating a rather bleak vision of human nature. In Ruscha’s painting, a quote from High-Rise overlays an otherwise serene landscape, creating discord in that act itself, and so reinforcing the meaning of the words: “The music from the balconies nearby was overlaid by the noise of sporadic acts of violence.” With this careful, deadpanexecution, Ruscha’s work also recalls the writing of Bret Easton Ellis, particularly his Los Angeles-based debut Less Than Zero, which was written at around the same time this work was created and was itself inspired by Andy Warhol’s experimental 1968 novel A: A Novel. Both Ruscha and Ellis, in the tradition of Ballard and Warhol, seem to have captured a similar atmosphere, and zeitgeist even, in their observations of LA in the mid-80s…”

Text: Music From The Balconies – Ed Ruscha and Los Angeles, Studio International.

Pic: Ed Ruscha, Nine swimming pools and a broken glass, 1968.

The Obvious

telephone-box

“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”
― Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

Pic: Bill E. Lytton, Red Telephone Box, from the series London Tourism, 2012. Created by layering thousands of tourist photos of typical London sites.

Around The Sun

aydin-buyuktas-flatland-warped-cityscapes-7aydin-buyuktas-flatland-usa-designboom-04

“I myself have dreamed up a structure intermediate between Dyson spheres and planets. Build a ring 93 million miles in radius – one Earth orbit – around the sun. If we have the mass of Jupiter to work with, and if we make it a thousand miles wide, we get a thickness of about a thousand feet for the base. And it has advantages. The Ringworld will be much sturdier than a Dyson sphere. We can spin it on its axis for gravity. A rotation speed of 770 m/s will give us a gravity of one Earth normal. We wouldn’t even need to roof it over. Place walls one thousand miles high at each edge, facing the sun. Very little air will leak over the edges. Lord knows the thing is roomy enough. With three million times the surface area of the Earth, it will be some time before anyone complains of the crowding.”
Text: Larry Niven, Ringworld.
Pics: Aydin Buyuktas, Flatland.

Saturated In Neon

“Can there be a science fiction photography? This is not a question critics working in the field of the fantastic have ever asked, as far as I’m aware, even though the conception of the visual cultures of sf has been continually expanding, through comics, cinema, animation, and computer gaming. There has been some attention paid to painterly modes of fantasy, the kitsch art of the sf pulps, and the vernacular modes of futuristic architecture (from New York skyscrapers to streamline deco to space age design) , but I have found virtually no commentary on the relations of sf and photography…

danholdsworth_171

“The most science fictional of […] photographers, in my view, is the British artist Dan Holdsworth. Holdsworth openly deploys the traditional iconography of the sublime. The World in Itself is a series of images of the glacial landscapes of Iceland, territories of ice and rock that are aeons older than the first human settlements on Iceland and which come closest to alien landscapes on earth. Holdsworth has talked about these landscapes in the same sort of multi-temporal terms I’ve been outlining here: these images, he suggests, explore “the nature of the archaic in contemporary society and how that manifests itself” . But more typically, Holdsworth investigates the frontiers where the natural and the technological force a reconfiguring of the sublime. In one of the images for A Machine for Living, Holdsworth invokes the classic iconography of the sublime cliff, but replaces the lone Caspar David Friedrich figure at the summit with an electricity pylon, the power lines containing the chasm beneath. Elsewhere, in a series called At the Edge of Space, Holdsworth explored the strange territories of the European Space Station in French Guyana. He has also documented closed scientific environments that are baffled against the intrusion of sound and abolish echo. His most emblematic series, though, are the images he takes at night of human developments on the edges of cities. A Machine for Living includes night-time images of the empty networks of car-parks and roadways, saturated in neon. Megalith, an iconic Holdsworth image, is a long night-time exposure of a motorway advertising gantry – yet the title suggests some gnomic object of an advanced civilisation from a tale by Arthur C. Clarke. It stands over the terrain like a Wellsian tripod. Holdsworth never works inside cities, but at the suburban edges where develop- ments run into older, natural landscapes and create odd hybrid territories which feel deeply uncanny. He never photographs human beings in these images, and it is as if, at night, and through the magic of long exposures that reveal more than the unaided human eye, these new terrains reveal their truly alien nature.

“Given Holdsworth’s 1998 series Autopia, night scenes of empty motorway architectures, it is unsurprising to find critics reaching for J. G. Ballard’s title, Myths of the Near Future, when trying to explain the weirdness of these images. “The transformative mechanism of the camera allows Holdsworth to project those imprints into the near future, to the edges of our aspiration and into our unconscious ‘inner space”‘ . Ballard’s iconography is full of striking images of future ruins, rusting space technologies, and poisoned nuclear test grounds. Angus Carlyle has argued that Holdsworth is using the iconography of the sublime to photograph a second nature, places that are “dizzying grey zones [where] uncertainty opens up, the ideas of nature and culture find themselves suddenly stuck by provisionalising apostrophes” (43). We might also reach for Bruno La tour’s language of tangled objects or provisional assemblages to describe this sublime second nature.”

Text: Roger Luckhurst, “Contemporary Photography and the Technological Sublime, or, Can There Be a Science Fiction Photography?” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. Pocatello: 2008. Vol. 19, Iss. 2; pg. 181.

Image: Dan Holdsworth, Autopia 01, 1996. C-type print, 121×101 cm

Dead Eyes Open

“One of Jules Verne’s later Voyages Extraordinaires titled Les Freres Kip (The Kip Brothers, 1902) features in its conclusion a somewhat curious scientific concept-yet one which was quite popular during the latter half of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth: the notion that the image of the last thing seen at the moment of death remains imprinted upon the retina of the eye.

“The fictional setting in Verne’s novel where this theory comes into play is as follows:

“A certain Captain Harry Gibson of the English freighter James Cook has been stabbed to death. On the strength of circumstantial evidence, two brothers named Karl and Pieter Kip are promptly arrested and imprisoned for the crime. Photos of the dead body are taken; in particular, snapshots of the victim’s head (with eyes open). An acquaintance of the victim asks the photographer for an enlargement of the head photo as a memento of his dead friend. The photographer agrees and makes several copies of the portrait, giving one to the victim’s family as well. Upon seeing the enlarged photo of his slain father, the young Nat Gibson is seized with grief and bends over to kiss it-and suddenly discerns two small points of light in the eyes of the photo. He examines these with a strong magnifyingglass and discovers therein the faces of the real murderers:two villainous sailors from the James Cook whom the police had initially suspected but against whom no hard evidence could be found. The real culprits are now arrested and condemned; the Kip brothers are vindicated; and the novel concludes with Justice served and the status quo happily reestablished.

“In his final chapter, Verne (always the pedagogue) explains to the reader the “scientific”basis for this pivotal discovery:

“For some time now it has been known-as a result of various interesting ophthalmologic experiments done by certain ingenious scientists,authoritative observers that they are- that the image of exterior objects imprinted upon the retina of the eye are conserved there indefinitely. The organ of vision contains a particular substancer, retinal purple,on which is imprinted in their exact form these images.They have even been perfectly reconstituted when the eye, after death, is removed and soaked in an alum bath.”

“It is likely that Verne gleaned this tidbit of ocular physiology from any one of the various newspapers, scientific journals, or encylopedias available to him in fin-de-siecle France-like the Gazette Medicale, for example, or the L’Encyclopedie franchise d’ophtalmologie by Lagrange and Valude-which offer detailed descriptions of this phenomenon (the latter of which, in particular,bears some resemblance to Verne’s own)…

“Undoubtedly, the rapidtechnological advancesmade in (and the growing popularity of) photography throughout this period also served to highlight these discoveries and to introduce them into public awareness. After all, the lesson seemed simple and very straight forward: the retina functioned like the photographic plate of a camera, therefore the final image viewed before death should remain fixed forever-like a photo-within the dead person’s eyes. It also came to be believed (as a logical extension of this hypothesis) that if death were to occur at a moment when the pupils of the eyes were hugely dilated-e.g., because of fear, surprise, anger or some other strong emotion-the retinal optograms of the deceased would be even clearer,more detailed, and easier to “develop.”

“Popular belief in these “facts” became so widespread during the final decades of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth that some police departmentsbegan to take close-up photographsof the eyes of murder victims in the hope of identifying their murderers. The most cel- ebrated of such cases involvedScotland Yard’sinvestigationof the infamous Jack-the-Ripper murders in Whitehall, London in 1888. One historian, in describing these events, notes:

In an attempt to be scientific,the police pried open Annie Chapman’s dead eyes and photographed them,in the hope that the retinas had retained an image of the last thing shesaw.But no images were found. (Stewart-Gordon121).

Text: Arthur B. Evans, “Optograms and Fiction: Photo in a Dead Man’s Eye, Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Nov., 1993), pp. 341-361.

Image: New York City crime scene, 1914-1918, New York City Municipal Archive.

Memory City

“One also wonders what Sontag, or indeed Baudelaire, would have made of Sohei Nishino, a young Japanese photographer whose work goes on show for the first time in Britain at the Michael Hoppen gallery next week. Like Winogrand, Nishino is an obsessive, one who relentlessly pounds the streets with a camera. Yet unlike Winogrand, and every other photographer mentioned above, Nishino does not go in search of the city’s dark seamy corners or neglected populations. What he does is photograph the city in detail, and then construct a composite map from the thousands of detailed images he has amassed on his wanderings. Thus far, he has recreated 10 cities, including Tokyo, Paris, Istanbul and New York. The end results, which he calls “diorama maps”, are both breathtaking in their ambition and disorienting in their oddness.

“Last year, Nishino spent a month walking the streets of London – which, come to think of it, does not seem that long a time for the task in hand. He took over 10,000 photographs, which, on his return to Tokyo, he edited down to 4,000. Then the real work began. Having hand-printed the photographs in his own darkroom, Nishino then set about cutting them up and piecing them together – slowly and meticulously – into a giant composite photographic map of the city of London. It measures 7.5ft x 4ft, and will be shown at Michael Hoppen alongside his other diorama maps.

“In the meticulous assembling of these photomaps, Nishino creates epic artworks that, despite depicting many familiar icons of modernity and post-modernity – the Empire State building, the Gherkin, the Pompidou Centre – look oddly old-fashioned. He creates what look like medieval or renaissance maps of modern cities. In them, everything is familiar yet oddly disjointed, nothing seems quite in scale and, here and there, whole areas are missing or seem crushed or out-of-proportion. Some of his photographs are taken from above, some from far below. Buildings loom and tilt, as does the terrain, and sometimes a segment of put-together sky appears.

“For Nishino, it would seem, the process is the thing. He has paid homage to the great 18th-century Japanese cartographer, Ino Tadataka, who spent 17 years surveying and mapping the coastline of Japan. (The mammoth project was completed by his surveying team after his death.) But Nishino’s obsessive cartography is of a different order: fantastical rather than scientific; imaginative rather than literal. “His images are true to form in a sense, and yet incorrect”, notes Seiji Komatsu, director of the Emon Photography gallery in Tokyo. “In other words, he is trying to depict an image that comes from within the memory.”

Unreal cities: Sohei Nishino’s magical photographic maps of London, Tokyo and utopia, The Guardian, February 24, 2011.

Image: Diorama Map Night (2009-10) … Nishino’s cities are ‘familiar yet oddly disjointed’. Photograph: Sohei Nishino/Michael Hoppen Contemporary/Emon Photo Gallery