Unreal Nature

April 21, 2015

Descent from the Upper Altitudes

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… we may catch a brief downward glimpse of intimate spaces like those where we will finally come to rest …

This is from Mapping by Robert Storr (1994):

… Like the tale told of Zeuxis, the Greek artist who painted a picture of a bunch of grapes so true that birds came to pick at it, Borges’s little fiction [‘Of Exactitude in Science’] which is also a fable of civilization’s vainglory and decline, belongs to the lore of illusion, and to the special branch of aesthetic literature that has long toyed with the possibility that at some magical point the distinction between the real and its copy might cease to exist. Like Carroll’s vignette [in Sylvie and Bruno], moreover, it is a playful demonstration of a corollary law of redundant representation, for when any macrocosmic surrogate reproduces its subject in every detail it becomes useless.

… The myriad shapes that lock together in maps like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle have myriad reasons for being. The majority are painful. It is in the nature of boundaries to be contested, and, from the impersonal distance of a globe spinning under the poised finger of a warlord, the carving-up of territory resembles a kind of megalomaniacal sculpture.

… Several years ago I was guided through the wood-paneled offices of a derelict film studio. Opposite what had been the movie mogul’s art deco desk was a mural map of the world, with the reassuringly prosaic graphic appeal of my elementary-school geography text. There was something subliminally troubling about it, however, and a long hard look was required before I realized that absent from it was any demarcation of the principal countries of Europe, which were tinted an overall faded scarlet. Only then did I check the date, which was 1943.

That was the year Casablanca premiered. The film opens to the image of a turning clay globe suspended in cottony sky. As the cinematographer closes in on France, he cuts to double-exposed images of heavily burdened civilians on the road and tramp steamers at sea, superimposed on a scrolling map of the route from Paris to North Africa. The spatial poetics of this sequence are complex. The animated line that charts the exodus moves more rapidly than the slogging pace of the refugees, while the theater audience’s perspective is that of someone securely aloft in an aircraft.

… Descent from upper altitudes entails an accelerating transition from macro- to microcosm. Continent telescopes into country, country into region, region into city, city into street, street into building, and building into a single window through which we may catch a brief downward glimpse of intimate spaces like those where we will finally come to rest at the end of the journey.





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