David Wojnarowicz, What is this little guy's job in the world, 1990, black & white photograph, 22 3/4 x 27 inches
Image courtesy of the Estate of Wojnarowicz & PPOW Gallery, New York
Curated by Todd von Ammon
Westport Arts Center
September - November 2018
Opening 14 September
In Paradiso—the third and final part of The Divine Comedy—Dante Alighieri travels through space: after visiting the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Dante arrives at The Fixed Stars—the year 1300 held a consensus of geocentrism—and he contemplates the planet Earth from a vast distance. From the constellation Gemini, Dante contemplates a planet so concerned with itself that it ignores its relative insignificance in a vast cosmos.
Nearly 400 years later, from the Moon’s orbit, Bill Anders captures what is considered the most influential environmental photograph of all time: Earthrise. Shot with 70 mm color film, the photograph depicts an azure planet seemingly untouched by humanity. Four years later, the crew of the Apollo 17 space mission captures The Blue Marble, which eventually becomes one of the most reproduced images in human history. These serene images of our home planet arguably gave birth to the contemporary environmental movement.
In 1990, the Voyager 1 space probe captured The Pale Blue Dot using a cathode ray tube camera—a technology that, on earth, had become obsolete decades before. The probe was just outside of our solar system, 3.7 billion miles from home. Nearly hidden underneath bands of solar flares, Earth consists of .12 pixels on a matrix of around 640,000. After the image was captured and the data transmitted back to Earth, the camera was disabled and the probe continued its journey into deep space. Today, Voyager 1 is 13 billion miles away and cannot capture another Pale Blue Dot. Carl Sagan—who requested that Voyager 1 capture this scientifically unnecessary but existentially powerful image—upon beholding the Pale Blue Dot, forebodingly remarked that “In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
All of the artists in Paradise will live their lives on Earth—a speck of dust suspended on a sunbeam. There is no question that the world is facing its greatest reckoning to date, provoking many scientists to consider other planetary options for homo sapiens. This exhibition will explore how artists represent the Earth’s present ecology—and the many emergencies therein—using both traditional media and contemporary technology.
Max Hooper Schneider