Contribution to the symposium Postcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation
- paper forthcoming -
The constructed postcard aims to serve as an alternative response to Hito Steyerl's question addressing the politics of the monochrome: "How could we insert an imperceptible subtraction into the red lights which are flashed at us to evoke terror and destruction?" While Steyerl was explicitly dealing with terror alert system in the wake of 9/11 and political instabilities, monochromes have since exceeded their localities, political crisis or confined environmental insecurities, to became planetary, intimately intertwined with dynamic geo-social entanglements. For that reason, and differently than Steyerl, who turned for answers to painting, the postcard turns to observational astronomy where red light is not employed in order to alarm and paralyze but rather to see and notice. During astronomical observations, red is seen as an essential tool to maintain night vision as the aim is not to break away from the darkness but to use the minimum amount of light within longer wavelengths that improves seeing the greatest.
Postcard, as essentially a metaphor, argues for modes of representation as tools for noticing (Anna Tsing), for diverse methods of embodied knowledge production, and for continuous material rearrangements of our representational apparatus affecting what can be known and experienced, which choices can be made and which actions taken.
Perhaps, like the specific material arrangement behind the constructed postcard shows, rearranging our representational apparatus across visual practices in general and spatial disciplines in particular might enable us to pull the solid red monochrome apart and expose its shimmer, give an account of difference and set up practices for discerning new possibilities of living with and through monochromes - recognizing that red is not a fixed and given category but comes in a variety of shades, has many levels of saturation and multiple pulsing rhythms.
Postcard depicts city landscape at night as seen through the telescope and the red filter, captured on film using pinhole camera.
Specific material arrangement resulting in the constructed postcard:
200mm f/6 Guan Sheng Dobsonian telescope, TS Optics Super Plössl 32mm eyepiece, TS Optics 2x Barlow Lens, TS Optics Colour Filter Red #25, pinhole camera, 30 min exposure time, Fuji Superia 1600 35mm film, human eye
a change in arrangement
Land is a poured thing and time a surface film lapping
and fringing at fastness, at a hundred hollow and
Breathe fast: we’re backing off the rim.
- Annie Dillard