International Necronautical Society INS Inspectorate Berlin
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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 causes vertigo.

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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