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AA The technique I used to
record my observations in Berlin evolves from my practice of drawing,
itself a process of marking and erasure repeated over time. This led
me to a concern with systems of looking and the interpretation of
sufaces. Aerial photography has its origins in military reconnaissance
and developed from the motivation to dominate a space visually (holding
the high ground) into more and more elaborate forms and techniques.
Following this development, the same techniques were discovered to
have revelatory powers for archaeologists, geologists, cartographers
and forensic investigators.
Air photography is extremely productive. It produces documents which
are extremely intensive of information.My method is to model the technique,
making a vertical aerial survey from a very low altitude. For example,
the first work which I made using this technique as a survey of the
carpet in my studio. A technique tends to create a sign of itself,
here, air photography suggests elevation, distance. But whether you
are many kilometres above the surface of a planet several centimetres
above my carpet, it is still about attention to a surface, an ability
to record and from then on, a challenge to interpret this surface, that
is, to read its inscriptions.
The document is never complete, but it contains information (in many
ways too much information) which is also to say, it is not yet knowledge.
The survey divides, reassembles and repeats the surface it records.
It re-presents a surface at once seductive in its richness and texture,
and repellent in its excess. Its possible legibility teters over its
illegibilitity. It is an abyss of information not because it has depth,
but because it makes you dizzy. It is the data, not the height which
Sometimes the surface under observation also repeats and reverses
the process of observation, when a reflective surface returns the
camera’s gaze. In Berlin, this occurred at two sites (on Bebel Platz and on Leipziger Strasse) where reflective surfaces returned the gaze of the camera as had also happened in my earlier survey Enemy Contact Surface. In that case I recorded the surface of a mirror-floor originally installed by Uli Aigner at the Freud Museum in London (the house where Sigmund Freud lived in the last year of his life). The surface itself was invisible except for the tracery of cracks where the mirrors had been broken underfoot.
In Berlin, I was not dealing with a mirror. Indeed, the reflectivity
of the surface was incidental, contingent on the material, and at
least partly repressed. At Leipziger Strasse the intentional object
is the image set in the glass. At Bebel Platz, specular reflection
is normally repressed because the window set in the ground is lit
from below. The lighting, however, tends to highlight the scratches
on the surface — the traces which had in fact caught my attention
on my first visit to the site — which are in turn repressed by periodically replacing the glass window. At the time of my survey the glass had been newly replaced, but the interior was not illuminated because the resurfacing of the whole sqaure (following its excavation to install an underground car park) was still not complete.
To return to reflectivity: the surfaces not only asserted the apparatus of looking which produced the photos — the downward gaze of the camera — but also produced an image of the sky: turning air photography into a photograph of air; turning the sky into the abyssal depth of the surface, nonetheless marked.
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