Ways of Sensing unpacks the ideological contexts and systems through which visual representations of the terrestrial environment is created, whether it is in the formation of images, conditions of viewing images, or positions from which perspectives are forced or coerced. Problematising the technological frameworks through which visuality constructs and manipulates reality and sentiments, the works in this chapter deconstructs the idea of a neutral image, and the schema behind it.
Chapter Three: Ways of Sensing consists of the films Sunstone, Making of Earths, Peninsula Tour, and Nostalgia for the Light.
Chapter Three: Part I
Sunstone (2017), dir. Filipa César and Louis Henderson
Sunstone tracks Fresnel lenses from their site of production to their exhibition in a museum of lighthouses and navigational devices. It examines the diverse social contexts in which optics are implicated, contrasting the system of triangular trade that followed the first European arrivals in the “New World” with the political potential seen in Op art in post-revolutionary Cuba. Incorporating 16mm celluloid images, digital desktop captures, and 3D CGI, the film also maps a technological trajectory: from historical methods of optical navigation to new algorithms of locating, from singular projection to multi-perspectival satellitic visions. Registering these technical advances progressively through the film’s materials and means of production, Sunstone creates “a cinema of affect, a cinema of experience—an Op film.”
Making of Earths (2021), dir. Geocinema
Following a year-long, documentary-led research, Making of Earths traces current efforts made across China and South-East Asia, to predict the future of Earth’s increasingly strange climates, in the shadow of attempts to control land and territory. A chasm widens between the lived experience of overwhelming uncertainty and the mass of data collected to profit from this instability. Life on the ground is mismatched with the planetary scale infrastructures of observation and management. Weather and climate become geopolitical. The film picks up on these themes and subverts the idea of knowing, instead opening up spaces of disorientation within the paranoid structure of totality.
Peninsula Tour (2020), dir. Kim Boyong
Peninsula Tour begins one day, by memorizing the route on Google Earth departing from Seoul, passing through Pyeongyang and Sinuiju, and arriving at the Chinese continent. To be connected to the world through technology presents an experience that separates my body from the land and fragments time and space. When the land and the body fail to create a coherent relationship, are we truly connected to the world? Peninsula Tour is a discontinuous journey that seeks a continuous world, in a hyperlinked society that arbitrarily edits time and space.
Chapter Three: Part II
Nostalgia for the Light (2010), dir. Patricio Guzmán
In Chile, at three thousand metres altitude, astronomers from all over the world gather together in the Atacama desert to observe the stars. The desert sky is so translucent that it allows them to see right to the boundaries of the universe. It is also a place where the harsh heat of the sun keeps human remains intact : those of the mummies, explorers and miners. But also the remains of the dictatorship’s political prisoners. Whilst the astronomers examine the most distant galaxies in search of probable extraterrestrial life, at the foot of the observatories a group of women are digging through the desert soil in search of their disappeared relatives…