Tag Archive: visuality

Nice or what?


The above is

(a) beautiful,

(b) ugly,

(c) neither beautiful nor ugly in itself (nor anything else in particular), or

(d) _________ (fill in the blank)?

It’s a view (on a particularly hazy day) of the Sheffield wind power project in northeast Vermont, as seen from Crystal Lake State Park beach outside the town of Barton.

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Elixir as child’s play

Marina Zurkow’s Elixir videos are wonderful, as is her Renatured blog. (Thanks to Tim for posting about her work.)

There is something sad and elemental about them, in their depiction of the self-containedness of our worlds and their ultimate vulnerability in the face of the chaos beyond. At the same time, the title suggests an alchemical remedy of sorts. Is this the elixir (of self-awareness) that will heal the rift between us and the cosmos, the child-like Aeon about to be born into the storm, or is it just another placebo, the child’s toy of Heidegger’s account of the Heraclitean Aion (which, after all, is as good as things get in this part of the universe)?

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pictures of light


There are some beautiful photographs of Eyjafjallajokull accompanied by the Northern Lights here. (Thanks to Politics Theory Photography for posting on it.)

They remind me of one of my favorite films about nature, seeing, and light, Peter Mettler’s Picture of Light (with music by Jim O’Rourke).

“Shoot” as in film, photograph, capture and display, but also fly with them, shoot the rapids of their movement, accompany them, become starling. These mesmerizing videos of moving masses of starlings, “murmurations” as they’re called, like other YouTube animal videos, tell us as much about the phenomenon being watched as about those watching it.

It all gets going here at around the 3’20″ mark. But it would be nice if we were given some alternative soundtrack options. Like this one, with no commentary, just a few intertitles, set to the music of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble:

I like the interplay between still shots and motion sequences, and even the traffic moving beneath them, and the sound of the traffic, adds a nice touch.

Bill Oddie’s video is as much about the starlings as about its quietly awestruck observer, with his whispered play-by-play, Qigong-like imitative acrobatics, and the way he holds his hands up for warming to the blue TV-screen light of the starling-filled sky:

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solar motion pictures

This is from Gary Palmer’s surreally beautiful Sun in Motion solar video page. Just try to take your eyes off this one.

Just by linking Carl Sagan’s eloquent little Pale Blue Dot to the teachings of Gautama Buddha, James Ure’s Buddhist Blog brings out the buddhism inherent both in Sagan’s words and in the imagery of the Earth from space. That imagery (as I’ve discussed before here and here) is multivalent, but Sagan’s spin on it — the pale blue dot as “the aggregate of our joy and suffering” on which “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives” — deepens its ability to carry useful meaning. That ability will one day exhaust itself, if not turn into its opposite, but for now I don’t think it has. “The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled [. . .] the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner [. . .] Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.”

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Those links to some of the art pieces Andy Revkin has posted on Dot Earth could be easily missed on my previous post, so I’m posting them separately here.

Aaron Koblin’s “Flight Patterns” series animates airplane flight patterns over the United States:

Revkin has a brief interview with Koblin as well. I find that the upbeat electronica soundtrack (on the above YouTube video) trivializes the images, making them almost an advertisement for air flight and visualization technology; I would have used something more reflective (recall, for instance, Stars of the Lid’s Environmental Defense Fund NYC subway campaign “Polar Bears” piece). Compare it with the silent version here.

As an accompanying reading, I would suggest Barry Lopez’s hypnotic account of flying on air freighters around the world, “On the Wings of Commerce,” reprinted as “Flight” in About This Life.

Revkin’s “Happy Birthday, Earthrise” post commemorates the original Earthrise photograph. Reading Denis Cosgrove’s “Contested Global Visions,” Sheila Jasanoff’s “Image and Imagination,” or even Heidegger’s “The Age of the World Picture” could set up a little productive tension with these images.

Earth breathing


I’m not quite sure what to make of this real-time simulation of the Earth’s CO2 emissions and birth and death rates (by country)… But I find myself mesmerized, in particular, by the soundtrack and the way it adds rhythm, along with a sort of creepy (-crawly) beauty, to the map. It is, of course, a great time to be experimenting with different methods for visualizing climate change, and while this one doesn’t give us much insight into the ‘base of the pyramid’ (see my note on swine flu and the connection between sustainability/resilience and the political-economic pyramid), I like the way it grasps the importance of sound and of time in creating a feel for what’s being portrayed.

Thanks to Reconciliation Ecology for sharing it.

This is a summary I provided to a grad student who was starting to get into this area. It’s very introductory and far from complete in its coverage, but since there’s so little out there on this topic, I thought it would be useful to post it. It’s also a bit biased towards literature that’s relevant to religion and religious experience (since this is what the student was working on). Comments are welcome.

The topic of the imagination had been out of fashion for a while in the humanities, especially as textual and semiotic approaches (structuralism, poststructuralism et al) came to dominate cultural theory in the 1970s and 1980s. Gradually it’s been coming back, but without any consensus on what it means or how it should be dealt with. The following are some of the threads of thinking that, to my mind, need to be drawn together in a coherent way in order to make contemporary sense of ‘the imagination’ or, as I prefer to call it, the imaginal. They are pieces of a much larger puzzle that is far from being solved.

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