2.3. Text Generation
3. Sensing the Anthropocene
[I]deas of the Anthropocene have been shaped by a technospheric net of innumerable satellites, cameras, and detectors, resulting in an aesthetic regime composed of data that has been used to narrate profound changes to climate, landscape, and biodiversity over the past 400 years.
If quantification, abstraction, and the logic of evidential traces have been the means by which we’ve largely come to recognize our purported Anthropocene condition, then the question becomes how we might proceed so that our “sensing” is less “remote,” and forge aesthetics that incorporate not only the representational, but also the lived and affective experiences of various anthropo-scenes.
Sunlight is behaving differently in this part of the world as the warming Arctic air causes temperature inversions and throws the setting sun off kilter. Light is bending and deceiving eyes that have tracked the position of the sun for generations, using it as an index of place and a marker for direction. The crystalline structures of ice and snow are twisting and morphing, producing a new optical regime borne out of climate change and indigenous observations.
The sense of closed global space that had disturbed the strategic thinking of so many Westerners at the beginning of the twentieth century found expression in a global geopolitics of competitive imperial struggle as the frontiers of Western empires converged at the ends of the earth. Mapping the globes climates and physiography into “natural” regions could naturalize patterns of control and strategy among the imperial powers. Geopolitics suggested that unalterable geographic “realities”—the distribution of lands and seas, of landforms, natural resources, or “races”—had to be exploited if a state was to survive, compete, and prosper.
4. Airborne Sensing
4.1. Aerial Activism
PigeonBlog thus staged an act of speculative sensing, one that entered into a collaboration with nonhuman partners so as to inspire new ways of seeing and thinking amongst its human observers. On this point, Haraway (2016, pp. 23–24) reads PigeonBlog as a striking instance of the exploratory kinships that are of particular import for life in the Cthulucene: ‘Perhaps it is precisely in the realm of play, outside the dictates of teleology, settled categories, and function, that serious worldliness and recuperation become possible’.With homing pigeons serving as the “reporters” of current air pollution levels, Pigeonblog attempted to create a spectacle provocative enough to spark people’s imagination and interests in the types of action that could be taken in order to reverse this situation. Activists’ pursuits can often have a normalizing effect rather than one that inspires social change. Circulating information on “how bad things are” can easily be lost in our daily information overload. It seems that artists are in the perfect position to invent new ways in which information is conveyed and participation inspired. The pigeons became my communicative objects in this project and “collaborators” in the co-production of knowledge.
4.2. Drone Art
We find ourselves on the side of the drone and its pilot, desperate to understand this torrent of collected images, the better to control and dominate—and, we realize, destroy—what and who lies below. The unmediated flow of visual and spatial data that passes through drone eyes collapses the distance between device and operator, between American air base and Middle Eastern valley, into a single moment of seeing.
Information is a property of people and communities and discussions, and actual work, it’s not something you can just take a picture of and steal. But that was the paradigm, and it actually remains the prevailing paradigm, that information is property, that it can be stolen with cameras. So flying the BIT Plane through these no-camera zones was part of the exploration of what you could actually just see. What could you actually see? What information could you take from the plane? Of course, the answer is not much (as contemporary drones have so aptly demonstrated)—lots of images but not much actual trustable information.
5. Vision Machines
5.1. Signal Processing
The rays received from the external world allowed for the precise algebraic processing of successive waveforms, which visualised objects that had previously been imperceptible to the naked eye. […] Photography and television were touted as technologies that faithfully recorded reality. Radar, however, broke the apparent unity of reality and its representation apart, because it programmatically manipulated the image. The pictures were not a faithful record of the rays received; they merely represented the initial data for filtering, that is, the algebraic calculation of the image. Slowly but surely, algorithms were beginning to determine what was considered as real.
Darling SweetheartYou are my avid fellow feeling. My affection curiously clings to your passionate wish. My liking yearns for your heart. You are my wistful sympathy: my tender liking.Yours beautifully,M.U.C.
5.2. Experimental Aesthetics
6. Waves to Waveforms
Conflicts of Interest
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