Saturday 10 December 2016

last post (wind wound)

Images from Susan Philipsz' poignant and exquisitely realised sound work War Damaged Musical Instruments, installed at Tate Britain, London, 2015. The installation's extraordinary sonic material and its affective spatialisation of course wholly resist photographic documentation of this kind ...

The three photographs of damaged instruments included above (from the Berlin Museum), two bugles and a silvered brass alto saxophone salvaged from the Alte Munz bunker in Berlin in 1945, are all used in the work. Other instruments include a bugle from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, found beside the body of a 14-year-old drummer boy; the 'Balaclava Bugle', used to sound the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854; a coronet played in the Boer War, 1880; a cavalry trumpet salvaged from the wreck of the SS Pomeranian, torpedoed off Portland Bill in 1918; and a tuba recovered from German trenches in 1915.

The Tate's web page about Philipsz' work offers the following contexts:

"War Damaged Musical Instruments features fourteen recordings of British and German brass and wind instruments damaged in conflicts over the last 200 years.

The notes recorded are based on the tones of the military bugle call ‘The Last Post’, but the tune is fragmented to such an extent that it is almost unrecognisable. The tune signaled to lost and wounded soldiers that it was safe to return to base and is used today as a final farewell in military funerals and Remembrance ceremonies.

The artist has worked with the architecture of the space devising a sequence of sounds that travel the length of the Duveen galleries. Philipsz explains:
I am less interested in creating music than to see what sounds these instruments are still capable of, even if that sound is just the breath of the player as he or she exhales through the battered instrument. All the recordings have a strong human presence."
For a review by Adrian Searle in the Guardian, see here 

For a pdf that maps the location of the megaphone-like speakers (in part structurally similar to wind instruments), see here

Monday 17 October 2016

messages in the pulse

'To be empty, free. Doing nothing. Yet not quite. Little blessings arrive which they collect. 

For the most part these blessings are memories yet it is misleading to say this, for, at the same time, they are promises. They collect the remembered pleasures of promises which cannot apply to the future which they have gladly vacated, but somehow do apply to the brief, empty present. 

The promises are wordless and physical. Some can be seen, some can be touched, some can be heard, some can be tasted. Some are no more than messages in the pulse. The taste of chocolate. The width of her hips. The splashing of water. The length of the daughter’s drenched hair. The way he laughed early this morning. The gulls above the boat. The crow’s feet by the corners of her eyes. The tattoo he made such a row about. The dog with its tongue hanging out in the heat. 

The promises in such things operate as passwords: passwords towards a previous expectancy about life. And the holidaymakers on the lakeside collect these passwords, finger them, whisper them, and are wordlessly reminded of that expectancy, which they live again surreptitiously'.

Extract from a text by John Berger, read by him at the Serpentine Gallery's Memory Marathon, London, 20 October 2012

Thursday 7 July 2016

shuttle 21: (in place of an) ending

'It's interesting to think of the great blaze of heaven that we winnow down to animal shapes and kitchen tools' (Don DeLillo, Underworld, London: Picador, 1998, 82) 

Jean Baudrillard: - 'I went in search of astral America, not social and cultural America, but the America of the empty, absolute freedom of the freeways, not the deep America of mores and mentalities, but the America of desert speed, of motels and mineral surfaces. I looked for it in the speed of the screenplay, in the indifferent reflex of television, in the film of days and nights projected across an empty space, in the marvellously affectless succession of signs, images, faces, and ritual acts on the road; looked for what was nearest to the nuclear and enucleated universe, a universe which is virtually our own ...

I sought the finished form of the future catastrophe of the social in geology, in that upturning of depth that can be seen in the straited spaces, the reliefs of salt and stone, the canyons where the fossil river flows down, the immemorial abyss of slowness that shows itself in erosion and geology. I even looked for it in the verticality of the great cities ...

Here in the transversality of the desert and the irony of geology, the transpolitical finds its generic, mental space. The inhumanity of our ulterior, asocial, superficial world immediately finds its aesthetic form here, its ecstatic form. For the desert is simply that: an ecstatic critique of culture, an ecstatic form of disappearance.

The grandeur of the deserts derives from their being, in their aridity, the negative of the earth's surface and of our civilised humours.  They are places where humours and fluids become rarefied, where the air is so pure that the influence of the stars descends direct from the constellations. And, with the extermination of the desert Indians, an even earlier stage than that of anthropology became visible: a mineralogy, a geology, a sidereality, an inhuman facticity, an aridity that drives out the artificial scruples of culture, a silence that exists nowhere else.

The silence of the desert is a visual thing, too. A product of the gaze that stares out and finds nothing to reflect it. There can be no silence up in the mountains, since their very contours roar. And for there to be silence, time itself has to attain a sort of horizontality; there has to be no echo of time in the future, but simply a sliding of geological strata one upon the other giving out nothing more than a fossil murmur.

Desert: luminous, fossilised network of an inhuman intelligence, of a radical indifference - the indifference not merely of the sky, but of the geological undulations, where the metaphysical passions of space and time alone crystallise. Here the terms of desire are turned upside down each day, and night annihilates them. But wait for the dawn to rise, with the awakening of the fossil sounds, the animal silence ...

The form that dominates the American West, and doubtless all of American culture, is a seismic form: a fractal, interstitial culture, born of a rift with the Old World, a tactile, fragile, mobile, superficial culture - you have to follow its own rules to grasp how it works: seismic shifting, soft technologies.

The only question in this journey is: how far can we go in the extermination of meaning, how far can we go in the non-referential desert form without cracking up and, of course, still keep alive the esoteric charm of disappearance? A theoretical question here materialised in the objective conditions of a journey which is no longer a journey and therefore carries with it a fundamental rule: aim for the point of no return. This is the key. And the crucial moment is that brutal instant which reveals that the journey has no end, that there is no longer any reason for it to come to an end.

Beyond a certain point, it is movement itself that changes. Movement which moves through space of its own volition changes into an absorption by space itself - end of resistance, end of the scene of the journey as such (exactly as the jet engine is no longer an energy of space-penetration, but propels itself by creating a vacuum in front of it that sucks it forward, instead of supporting itself, as in the traditional model, upon the air's resistance). In this way, the centrifugal, eccentric point is reached where the movement produces the vacuum that sucks you in.

This moment of vertigo is also the moment of potential collapse. Not so much from the tiredness generated by the distance and the heat, as from the ireversible advance into the desert of time'.

Extract from Jean Baudrillard, America, London: Verso, 1988, 5-6, 11

Hello Mick, and Beth,

I'm ending with Baudrillard, not because I necessarily agree with everything he proposes, but because his rhetorical postcards from the road remain provocative for me in terms of driving, the cinematic, the seismic drama of geology, time, 'silence'.

In assembling these virtual fragments over the past three weeks, a kind of ad hoc - and unfinishable - reading companion for your journey, I have often tried to imagine where you are. And I realise I've entirely elided my own embodied movements during that time, a shuttle rhythm of to-ing and fro-ing between work in London and England's (much milder, greener) 'Southwest'.

I have passed Stonehenge six times in different light, and on each occasion have hollered greetings to the pigs on the other side of the road. I've been dazzled by a billowing field of scarlet poppies in bloom. I've watched tiny swallows being fed by their hyperactive parents in their mud-spit nest above a doorway, and cried quietly during episodes of 24 Hours in A&E. And, in the gaps, I've been transfixed by events in Egypt, as well as by the river, the swifts, the bees, the clouds and the sky.

Wishes, to you and the shuttle crew,
 for the journeys home and to come, 
elsew/here ...

Photos: Richard Misrach, drive-in cinema, Las Vegas, 1987; (bottom) William Egglestone

Unhurried departure music: Jem Finer's Longplayer - time lapse film of a live performance at the Roundhouse, London, 12.9.2009 (1,000 minutes in 1,000 seconds). For the Longplayer website, and a live stream link to this ongoing musical composition (currently 13.5 years into its 1,000 year duration), see here

Wednesday 6 July 2016

shuttle 20: singing (faith & peaches)

'A song ain't nothin' in the world but a story just wrote with music to it' (Hank Williams, 1952)

Rebecca Solnit: - ' ... there is no adequate response in our vernacular to this landscape, nothing can touch the authenticity around it - thus the neon of Vegas, the motels of Flagstaff, the diners of Elko, the pink flamingos on the banks of a river named after a German who never saw it [the Humboldt].

At the most breathtaking landscapes of the West, people usually say something profoundly banal or trivial, not so much because they are not impressed, but because they know their words can't measure up to it, and it is more respectful not to try. In some way, banality becomes a refuge from fear of the sublime, overwhelming scale of the land.

Only the splenetics of country music seems to describe it: The eternal story of country songs is about someone who took refuge in the house of love, only the house fell apart, and so the singer is lost in the vastness again, and alone. Never mind their obsessive boy-girl front - they're songs about the pain of freedom, the loneliness of independence, about aftermath, irretrievable loss, fall from grace. If you don't believe the lyrics, the violins and guitars will tell you so.

Like pastoral poetry, country music (before positive thinking ruined it in recent years) is usually about the past, though the past seen more through bitterness than pastoral nostalgia. The singer is leaving, being left, or looking back, and the lyrics are full of midnight trains and lost highways, rambling men, walking after midnight, coming back to see their sweetheart wed another. A passionate love for geography is buried in all this bile, so that the songs of loss are rich too, rich in place names, travels, and atmospheres ...

The basic gesture of American society is a kind of atomisation, an expansion into what was always imagined as an expanding universe. That expansion was tragic in all Old World narratives, and America was settled by outcasts for whom tragedy became opportunity. Even framed as 'progress' and 'manifest destiny', that gesture is one of loneliness, and of conflict resolved by space rather than society - room to swing your arm. Tragedy, our ability to fall out of society and into the landscape, has been the content of American optimism'.

Extract from Rebecca Solnit, 'The Name of the Snake', in Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 199, 184-5

For today's driving music, the  14-minute looping heartbeat and visionary minimalism of Gillian Welch's 'I Dream A Highway' (from Time: The Revelator), listen here. For lyrics, see here

Gillian Welch: - 'Our palette is so minimal. We have four microphones, two voices and two guitars. That's how we make records and it freaks people out. I've come to believe that there's this other element, which is the sum of its parts - things like the air, the room, the atmosphere. These things enable us to make these little landscapes and soundscapes, which is interesting to us. Once your frame of reference adjusts to the fact that there's so little going on, the music can become very rich and panoramic, at least that's the hope'.

On driving across the USA: 'We were watching the road signs go by, which is a beautiful lesson in American poetry. You forget how beautiful the place names and the words are that you see when you're driving around. It's a great crash course in language'.

On her diverse audience: 'Those guys [hippies, country folk, hardcore rock & punk enthusiasts] say ours is the only folk music because they see the kind of gnarly, dark shit in there ... We sent the lyrics for this record [The Harrow and the Harvest] to the artist who did the cover - he's a metal artist, quite well known, and his covers usually have decomposing skulls and stuff, and he was like, "Man, this shit is dark!"'

Photographs below: William Egglestone

Tuesday 5 July 2016

shuttle 19: naming

‘The desert could not be claimed or owned – it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names long before’ 

(Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, London: Picador, 1992) 

North American deserts  (north to south)
Carcross, Fraser, Thompson Country, Nk’mip; Channeled Scablands, Snake River, Craters of the Moon, Red, Owyhee, Yp, Alvord, Oregon High; Great Basin (Black Rock, Forty Mile, Smoke Creek, Great Salt, San Raphael, Sevier, Escalante, Bisti Badlands, Painted); Mojave (Death Valley, Amargosa); Sonoran (Colorado, Yuha, Yuma, Lechuguilla, Tule, Gran Desertio de Altar, Baja, Vizcaino); Chihuahuan (Trans-Pecos, White Sands)

Some American winds 
Auger (dust devil, sometimes stationary, in California), Black Roller (dust storm), Cat’s Paw (strong enough to ripple a pool), Chinook (a foehn wind also known as 'the snow eater'), Chocolatero, Chubasco, Collada, Cordonazo (‘the lash of St Francis’), Coromell, Diablo, Duster, Kabeyun (‘the father of winds’, Algonquin), Kibibonokka (‘the fierce one’, Algonquin), Maria (fictional), Mato Wamniyomni (‘whirlwind’, Dakota), Mono, Norte, Norther, Papagayos, Pruga, Santa Ana, Shawondasee (‘the lazy wind’, Algonquin), Sonora, Stikine, Sundowner, Surazo, Taku, Tapayagua, Ta Te Kata (chinook, Sioux), Tehuantepecer, Tezcatlipoca (‘the divine wind’, Aztec), Tornado, Virazon, Wabun (‘the morning bringer', Algonquin), Williwaw, Witch, Zonda 

Aeolian processes
- abrasion: the process of physical weathering
- deflation: a process in which the finer grained material is removed, and the level of the land surface is lowered
- desert pavement: forms when wind removes all of the fine-grained sand from a system, leaving only the coarser gravel behind
- desert varnish: the patina of iron and manganese oxides left on rocks after they have undergone long periods of chemical weathering in the desert
- ventifacts - stones that have been sculpted by the wind 

Sonoran Desert plants & animals
Flora: cave primrose, desert Christmas cactus, desert lupine, desert willow, devil’s claw, fairy duster, ghost flower, hedgehog cactus, jimson weed, night blooming cereus, prickly pear cactus, saguaro cactus, showy four o’ clock (Mirabilis multiflora), tumble weed, western wildflower

Fauna: Allen’s big-eared bat, Arizona pocket mouse, Bezy’s night lizard, black-tailed jackrabbit, cactus mouse, California leaf-nosed bat, Chihuahuan striped whiptail lizard, Chuckwalla lizard, common desert centipede, desert bighorn sheep, desert box turtle, desert pupfish, desert recluse spider, desert spiny lizard, desert tortoise, desert woodrat, flat-tail horned lizard, fringe-toed lizard, Gila monster, golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), horned lizard, kangaroo rat, lesser long-nosed bat, little striped whiptail, long-tailed brush lizard, Mearns coyote, Merriam’s kangaroo rat, Mesquite mouse, Mexican grey wolf (el lobo), mountain king snake, mountain lion (cougar or puma), Mexican big-eared bat, Mexican black king snake, Mexican long-tongued bat, Mexican jumping beans (frijoles saltarines), Mexican tree frog, Pacific burrowing wasp, pallid bat, Pinacate beetle, rattlesnakes (genus Crotalus), ring-tailed cat, round-tailed ground squirrel, Sonoran desert toad, Sonoran shovelnose snake, Sonoran sidewinder, spotted bat, tiger centipede, Trans-Pecos striped whiptail lizard, western pipistrelle, white-throated woodrat, Yuma myotis vesper bat, zebra-tailed lizard
Birds: Abert’s towhee, Anna’s hummingbird, Bell’s vireo, Bendire’s thrasher, black-chinned hummingbird, black-chinned sparrow, black rail, black-tailed gnatcatcher, black-throated sparrow, brown-crested flycatcher, burrowing owl, canyon wren, Cassin’s vireo, Chihuahuan raven, collared peccary, Costa’s hummingbird, Crissal thrasher, curve-billd thrasher, desert cardinal, Ferruginous pygmy owl, Gambel’s quail, Gila woodpecker, gilded flicker, greater roadrunner, great horned owl (Bubo virinus), lark bunting, Lawrence’s goldfinch, Le Conte’s thrasher, Lucy’s warbler, mountain plover, mourning dove, phainopepla, Plumbeous vireo, sage sparrow, spotted owl, vermilion flycatcher, yellow-headed blackbird

Rebecca Solnit: - 

'Naming is a form of claiming. Parents name their children, priests baptise their flock, husbands confer their names upon their wives, explorers name what they come across - whether it's Fremont naming the Humboldt River after another explorer or Martin Heinrich Klaproth naming the element uranium after the god of the underworld. To name a thing is to assert that a new identity has begun ...

In Genesis, Adam wants a helpmeet, but God instead brings forth all the animals for him to name, and only after the fowl of the air and the beasts of the field are named does his Creator get around to making woman out of his rib. According to Robert Graves and Raphael Patai's Hebrew Myths, naming is a euphemism or substitute activity. In the original version Adam couples with all the creatures in quest of a satisfactory mate, and when his experiments with the animals prove unsatisfying Eve arrives for his use ...

The scattering of names across the land is a cipher of its history. As Utah is sprinkled with the Old Testament names that gave resonance to the Mormon emigration there, so California is overlaid with the sanctifying names of the Spanish missionaries, from the sacrament itself in the state's capital to the list of saints trailing down the coast. Other Spanish names are descriptive: Mariposa for the butterflies that menaced Moraga's expedition, the Sierra Nevada for their snow ... The names of the peaks in a western mountain range often sound like the roster of a board of directors. Josiah Whitney, director of the state's Geological Survey, named the tallest peak yet found by his men in the Sierra after himself, then hastened to transfer his name to the taller mountain that turned up afterward, the current Mount Whitney ...

Had the old names been kept, the newcomers would have been emigrants, not discoverers. The great charm of the Belgian gold miner Jean-Nicholas Perlot is that he came to the Sierra foothills as to a foreign country rather than a manifest destiny, came to it as a place in the middle of a story rather than waiting for one to begin, without the sense of himself as a new Adam or the Indians as obstacles to a new Eden. As befits an immigrant, he learned the languages, English, Spanish, and Miwok. Changing the names is a symbolic substitute for wiping out the people, and in looking at the language of the newcomers, particularly in Yosemite, the constant conjunction of the words extermination and aboriginal captures this. Exterminate comes from terminate, to end, ab-original means from the beginning, and so the phrase means to terminate the originals, end the beginning, and begin again in the middle, making Adams out of Europeans in an Eden wrested from some people who didn't fit into the new story'.

Extract from Rebecca Solnit, 'The Name of the Snake', in Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999

Photos (from top): Jan Janssonius, anemographic chart, 1650; USA wind map; Steve Evans - desert cactus flower, Arizona; rattlesnake rattle; Matt - Saguaro cactus; desert cacti, Chelsea Flower Show, London, 2013

For driving music,  'I've been everywhere', performed by Willie Nelson & Hank Snow, listen here
For further details of Jean-Nicholas Perlot (and his canine companion Miraud), see his Gold Seeker: Adventures of a Belgian Argonaut during the Gold Rush Years, ed. Howard R Lamar, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985

For a wonderful book about winds - with chapters on wind and earth, time, life, body and mind, and a 'dictionary of winds' - see Lyall Watson, Heaven's Breath: A Natural History of the Wind, London: Hodder & Staughton, 1984 

Monday 4 July 2016

shuttle 18: zoning

'When there is enough out-of-placeness in the world, nothing is out of place' (Don DeLillo, Mao II)

'Physical space is vital to the type of testing and training [required by a hi-tech military force]. A single open-air test range requires nearly two million acres of open land. The Southwest is the only region of the country that offers land of this size, as well as air and sea space needed for other kinds of testing. The Southwest offers over 335 million acres of federally owned land. Over 490 thousand square miles of airspace is available in the Southwest, and 484 thousand square miles of sea are open for training activities. This land can be used without the interference from civilians or substantial electromagnetic interference - both of which are a problem in the rest of the country' ('Southwest Range Complex',

The Zone

'Tremors from the future can be felt throughout Stalker. In less than a decade Professor's summary of how the Zone came into existence had taken on the aura of a premonition fulfilled, and Stalker acquired yet another dimension of suggestiveness: in its foreshadowing of the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl, in Ukraine. Tarkovsky was not only a visionary, poet and mystic - he was also a prophet (of a future that now lies in the past).

The damaged reactor and much of the radioactive material were sealed in a huge concrete 'sarcophagus'. Nearby towns such as Pripyat were evacuated and a thirty-kilometre zone of exclusion was established around the plant. Like Stalker's child ... large numbers of the children of parents who lived near Chernobyl had birth defects.

After the evacuation the Zone of Exclusion was littered with the rusting remains of vehicles that had been used as part of the emergency clean-up. Plants stitched the empty roads and cracked concrete. Trees thrust through the warped floors of derelict buildings. Leaves changed shape. Vegetation clambered up the crumbling walls of abandoned homes.

Photographs taken by Robert Polidori of Pripyat and Chernobyl in 2001 (and collected in his book Zones of Exclusion) look like stills from a retrospective location shoot from the set of Stalker (1). Except it might not be quite as simple as Polidori and others documenting a world which had come to resemble a film made thirty years earlier. It could be that the photographers' aesthetic - their tacit sense of what they were looking for - was partly formed by Stalker, so that the film had helped generate and shape the observed reality that succeeded it.

Rumours began to circulate that within the Zone there was another place (in any magical realm there is always a deeper recess or chamber of more powerful magic) where your wishes could come true. There you have it. In the most concise form imaginable, Professor has outlined the birth of a myth and religion: a place where something may or may not have happened; a place with a power that was intensified - possibly even created - by being forbidden.

That's certainly the view of another professor, good old Slavoj Zizek, who reckons that the cordoning off is the defining aspect of the Zone: "What confers on it the aura of mystery is the Limit itself, i.e. the fact that the Zone is designated as inaccessible, as prohibited". In a classic Zizekian bit of reverse dialectics, "the Zone is not prohibited because it has certain properties which are 'too strong' for our everyday sense of reality; it displays these properties because it is posited as prohibited. What comes first is the formal gesture of excluding a part of the real from our everyday reality and of proclaiming it the prohibited Zone"'.

(1) (footnote): 'Rather different but even more extraordinary documentary corroboration of the existence of some kind of Zone is provided by Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen in his book Satellites (2006), particularly the images from the so-called spacecraft crash zone in Kazakhstan and just across the border in the Altai Republic of Russia. The debris that regularly came crashing from space gave rise to a thriving unofficial business here - in spite of the risks - in scrap and salvage. Bendiksen's most famous - and beautiful - photograph shows two villagers atop the dented remains of a spacecraft or satellite in the midst of an idyllic green landscape and blue sky, all snow-blurred by the wings of thousands of white butterflies'.

Extract from Geoff Dyer's recent book about Tarkovsky's film Stalker - Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room, Edinburgh & London: Canongate, 2012, 74-77

Photos (from the top): Nellis Air Force Base perimeter signs, Nevada; Robert Polidori, 'Unit 4 control room, Chernobyl', 2001; Jonas Bendiksen, 'Spaceship Junkyard', Altai Territory, Russia, 2000; declassified photograph of remnants of a crashed titanium A-12 spy plane from Groom Lake/Area 51, Nevada, scattered on the ground near Wendover, Utah, 1963

For the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) website and database, an invaluable resource 'dedicated to the increase and diffusion of knowledge about how the nation's lands are apportioned, utilized, and perceived', see here

For an earlier post about Nevada nuclear tests in the late 1950s, Elvis, Las Vegas etc, see 'Plumbbob' here

For an earlier post about Chernobyl & Pripyat, nuclear waste, 'toxic tourism' etc, see 'A new fire (unknown fields)' here

For a sequence of three earlier posts about waste, see 'Underhistory' here, here and here

For cheerfully apocalyptic driving music, 'The man comes around' by Johnny Cash, listen here

Sunday 3 July 2016

shuttle 17: rocking (in time)

'It was the high point of his morning. Change the canaries. Feed the mule. Stand transfixed for half an hour' 

(Sam Shepard, Motel Chronicles & Hawk Moon, London: Faber, 1982)

'"The blur of technology, this is where the oracles plot their wars. Because now comes the introversion. Father Teilhard knew this, the omega point. A leap out of our biology. Ask yourself this question? Do we have to be human forever? Consciousness is exhausted. Back now to inorganic matter. This is what we want. We want to be stones in a field" ... 

Every lost moment is the life. It's unknowable except to us, each of us inexpressibly, this man, that woman. Childhood is lost life reclaimed every second, he said. Two infants alone in a room, in dimmest light, twins, laughing. Thirty years later, one in Chicago, one in Hong Kong, they are the issue of that moment. 

A moment, a thought, here and gone, each of us, on a street somewhere, and this is everything. I wondered what he meant by everything. It's what we call self, the true life, he said, the essential being. It's self in the soft wallow of what it knows, and what it knows is that it will not live forever ...

The landscape began to seem normal, distance was normal, heat was weather and weather was heat. I began to understand what he meant when he said that time is blind here. Beyond the local shrubs and cactus, only waves of space, occasional far thunder, the wait for rain, the gaze across the hills to a mountain range that was there yesterday, lost today in lifeless skies'. 

(Don DeLillo, Point Omega, London: Picador, 2010)

Bill Viola - ‘In 1981, I made a videotape in Japan, Hatsu Yume ('First Dream'), in which there is one sequence where a fixed camera views a rock on a mountainside over a long period of time. When it comes on the screen, the images are moving 20 times normal speed, and gradually, in a series of stages, it slows down to real-time, and eventually to extreme slow-motion.

People usually describe that scene by saying, “ … the part where the people are all slowed down while moving round the rock”. What I looked at in that scene is the rock, not so much the people. I thought it would be interesting to show a rock in slow motion. All that is really happening is that the rock’s time, its rate of change, exceeds the sampling rate (the recording time of the video), whereas the people are within that range. So the rock just sits there, high speed, slow speed … it doesn’t matter.

I think about time in that way. There are windows or wavelengths of perception. They are simultaneous and interwoven at any one moment, but we are tuned only to a certain frequency range. This is directly related to scale changes in space or sound, proportion in architecture and music. A fly lives for a week or two, and a rock exists for thousands or millions of years’.

From Bill Viola (1995), Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House: Writings 1973-1994, London: Thames & Hudson / Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 151

'Hatsu yume' is a Japanese term for the first prophetic dream in the new year. Viola: 'I was thinking about light and its relation to water and to life, and also its opposite - darkness or the night and death. Video treats light like water; it becomes fluid on the video tube. Water supports the fish like light supports man. Land is the death of the fish; darkness is the death of man'.

Photo at top: Ansel Adams, 'Rock and Cloud, King's River Canyon' (California), 1936. 

Left: Glen Baxter drawing
“I was thinking about light and its relation to water and to life, and also its opposite — darkness or the night and death. Video treats light like water — it becomes fluid on the video tube. Water supports the fish like light supports man. Land is the death of the fish — darkness is the death of man.” - See more at:
“I was thinking about light and its relation to water and to life, and also its opposite — darkness or the night and death. Video treats light like water — it becomes fluid on the video tube. Water supports the fish like light supports man. Land is the death of the fish — darkness is the death of man.” - See more at:
“I was thinking about light and its relation to water and to life, and also its opposite — darkness or the night and death. Video treats light like water — it becomes fluid on the video tube. Water supports the fish like light supports man. Land is the death of the fish — darkness is the death of man.” - See more at: