This is a composite image of fifteen landscape or horizon images from magazine LL (64), 9050 to 9075. I made this image in Photoshop by layering the images and setting the opacity to 50%. As you can see there is a prominent shadow, but less visible is the lunar module. The Lunar and Planetary Institute’s description for the fifteen photograps is “LUNAR MODULE; 360 PAN FROM EVA 2.” Because these photographs were likely taken from the Hasselblad mounted to the astronauts’ chest, these images do not necessarily demonstrate a unique or consistent style of photography. I have yet to draw conclusions from these homogeneous, subject-less photographs.
This is a composite of eight photographs from magazine II (66), 9216 to 9224. I made this image in Photoshop, again, by layering the images and setting the opacity to 30%. The Lunar and Planetary Institute’s description in the metadata is “VIEW FROM LUNAR MODULE WINDOW DURING LUNAR ORBIT SHOWING THE CSM.” Orbital photographs like these were likely taken from handheld Hasselblad cameras. Why eight iterations of the same shot were necessary for this astronaut, I don’t know; one of the conclusions I’ve been able to draw from series of images like these is that I need to look past and around the photograph itself and into the photograph’s context.
This is a screen cap from a dendrogram I made using the Raw visualization. I was able to input my original flat file, but unfortunately, with my capta organized as it was, I was forced to reorganize the information in a completely new way that’s reflected in Monday’s submission. I still have reorganization to do, because without context, those “trues” and “falses” don’t mean anything. Despite that though, I’m thinking my capta isn’t varied enough to make an interesting visualization.
John Cage described in his interview with Richard Kostelanetz (1991) that he was moving away from his conceptual work on silence and was instead moving toward the themes and tropes of theatricality. In particular, theater in the round was a conceptual platform from which to jump: He decided against closing the audience out as with the proscenium theater in favor of an all-encompassing, interactive performance. In the proscenium theater, the interior architecture situates the audience members hierarchically and privileges the middle section over the sides. This seating arrangement positions the audience as mere observers, passive subjects of the performance. Instead, understanding theater as life, John Cage idealized each member of the audience as actor, performing composed music, talking or singing along, engaging with all five senses the environment around them. In composing what he would define as a theatrical piece, he defines theater as unrestrictedly as possible: “I would simply say that theater is something that engages the eye and the ear” (Kostelanetz 1987, 101). Read the rest of this entry »
It was by walking that man began to construct the natural landscape of his surroundings. And in our own century we have formulated the categories for interpreting the urban landscapes that surround us by walking through them.
Francesco Careri, Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice
After its digitization and subsequent reemergence on the web in 2010, Archigram (1961-1974) is as relevant as it was during its years of publication under the young, English architects of the “lost generation” Peter Cook, Warren Chalk, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Mark Herron, and Michael Webb (Allen 2003: 36). Each of the nine and a half editions of the ‘zine is comprised of bundled or saddle-stapled sheets of paper, depicting carnivals of loudly and multi-colored, high-contrast images of walking cities, abstracted layouts, and diagrams with a multiplicity of typefaces and sometimes even objects: The seventh edition (1966) “Beyond Architecture” houses seventeen sheets of variously sized paper and an electronic resistor. In the ninth edition (1970), a packet of Steward & Drewell Ltd. Night Scented Stock flower seeds. Archigram is almost as much an artifact of the contemporaneous Fluxus art movement as it is a ‘zine.
An aspect of the ‘zine that has largely been ignored, save a few footnotes and off-the-cuff mentions in passing is the materiality of the ‘zine itself. Though the now popular images of “Zoom Architecture” from the well known Archigram 4 (1964) advertise the comic book style, the eye meets more than just Marvelous classics. The publication’s graphic and typographical design mimics that of architecture itself. So while Archigram’s project provided visions for the future, it is in fact the medium within which these visions were housed that is the message.
Most pages enclose black and white illustrations closely akin to Pop, with many images calling back to the Dadaist Happenings in the late 1910s and early 1920s and the Paris’ May 1968 Revolution happening contemporaneously across the English Channel. Following the trends set by Whole Earth Catalog and the growing industry of the popularization of space images (example: Earth Rising, 1968), and emerging from the contention between these young revolutionaries and the Architectural Association, Archigram is a strong call for environmentalism and sustainability, supplying you with the seeds to do so.
In his book Design by Choice, Reyner Banham describes Cook and his crew’s orchestration of this image-text circus as
“rhetorical, with-it, moralistic, mis-spelled, improvisatory, anti-smooth, funny-format, cliquey, art-oriented but stoned out of their minds with science-fiction images of an alternative architecture that would be perfectly possible tomorrow if only the Universe (and especially the Law of Gravity) were differently organized” (1981: 64).
Similar in revolution, but perhaps slightly more aggressive was the group Situationist International, born of the avant-garde movements Dada and Surrealism. Franscesco Careri outlines the ideological heritage of the Situationist group, a theoretical timeline illuminating the conceptual ties between these two groups: Careri describes the movement’s lineage through Dada and Surrealism’s visits, Happenings, and deambulation (1910s-1920s) to the Lettrists driftings and situation construction (1950s) and finally to the Situationists’ dérive and psychogeography (1950s-1970s). and he outlines these practices through the performance of walking (Careri 2003). While walking, either at that time or in contemporary parlance, is not often thought of as an artistic practice, due to postmodernist land art and performance art such as Robert Smithson (b. 1938 – d. 1973), Richard Long (b. 1945), Richard Serra (b. 1938), and John Cage (b. 1912 – d. 1992), we can see the performance of walking and specifically wandering as aesthetic practice.
Like the Situationists’ psychogeography, wandering through the pages of Archigram is much like wandering through a city. In what the Dadaists call deamubulation, drifting though city and rural landscapes is like “a sort of automatic writing in real space, capable of revealing the unconscious zones of space, the repressed memories of the city” (Careri 2003, 22). Already, the gesture of walking is likened to writing and reading, taking the artistic gesture from the physical, three-dimensional to the conceptual two-dimensional and then to the subconscious. Guy Debord defines psychogeography as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviors of individuals” (Knaubb 1981: 5).
Carrying on to describe Haussman’s Paris, a city organized under the direction of a single George Haussman, Debord describes the suffocating and oppressing features of forced, pre-planned roads, “Haussman’s Paris is a city built by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (Knaubb 1981: 5) Debord borrows from Faulker the discontent that emerges from traveling in pattern after pattern along the boulevard. The avant-garde tendency, (avant-garde carries with it militaristic denotations), is to revolt from the generation before them. So to get past the inconvenience and discontent of trudging along in the foregeneration’s footsteps, they created their own maps from their own memories, creating new signification for their own paths. Archigram‘s streets, boulevards, texts, and images definitely have a Haussman(n) feel, but less George, more Raoul.
Like Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog (1968 – 1972), which Simon Sadler describes as “a collage of content between iconic images of the earth,” Archigram is a collage of image and text, an architecture of wandering. The group, though certified and practicing architects, was indeed much like Brand, who was an “architect in the way he provided a institutional and material framework through which to stage the desires of others” (Sadler 2008: 121). Archigram is all about the reader, and the its imagination is all about the walker. Each edition in Archigram collects unique, hand-drawn, text and image layouts, and the variance in page size, composition, and binding is completely to the editors’ discretion. It’s up to us to decide what page or box of text to read next. In casting aside the tradition of the typical, traditional grid, Cook opted for circumambulating, papiers collés-ish, D. I. Y. methods of expression, manifesting within the magazine’s unique graphic design. The gesture of reading and flipping through the magazine is comparable to the gesture of walking through a city: Instead of keeping to the routes of the sidewalks or even along the “L” in Chicago’s downtown Loop, Archigram is a sinuous stroll along the reader’s own lines of desire.
In 1978, Kathy Keeton founded OMNI magazine with longtime business partner Bob Guccioni, who funded her project through his major financial success as founder and editor-in-chief of Penthouse magazine. Cured in the culture flowing with the mass technological and scientific investment, print culture in the feminism-driven 1970s promised audiences titillating technologies, seducing standards of living, and sexy futures through both textual content and imagery.
Photographs and illustrations such as craters, meteors, and satellite images of Europa’s ice striations as well as Omni’s advertisements such as Ford Mustangs, Marlboros, Dewar’s “White Label” scotch, and Chanel eau de toilet for men, ranged from grayscale to fully colored images. In some cases, Guccioni ran these editorial and advertising pages through an extra layer of coloring, giving the background a metallic sheen. A large financial expenditure like this would certainly guarantee a futuristic and gold-digging audience, suggesting magnificent colonized futures aboard asteroids and human-made satellites above Earth in orbiting Edens. OMNI Magazine fits within the Sagan-O’Neill-Star Wars popular culture, reaching multiplicities of discursive tracts through sensuous yet scientific undertones in an almost Penthouse-grade, racy editorial magazine complete with everything but the bitchin’ kink. Through a practical and theoretical archeological excavation of Omni’s technologies and textual-visual methods, we can understand Guccioni and Keeton’s use of technological sexualization by looking through three different scopes: the microscope, the telescope, and windows to the future.
Roman Vishniac and Laurence Baskin’s colorized micrography images against the scientific uses of the instrument and reading the images addresses definitions of graphic design and scientific practice that intersect here. Turning to the long-running column “Space,” which was in the early years headed by Mark R. Chartrand III addresses Omni‘s tradition of answering to the recent popular science space news, narrowing in on the communication and dispersal of images and their means of popularization. Lastly, Omni’s visions of the future, looking primarily at Omni’s portrayal of Gerard O’Neill, his cylinders orbiting at certain Lagrangian points between the earth and the moon, and the L5 Society he inspired demonstrate attention to the future, a symptom of the 70s, 80s and 90s Science Fiction.
Specifically from 1979 to 1981, a system of sexual signs emerges within Omni, perhaps as a result from Guccioni’s affiliation with Penthouse. The degree to which this affiliation penetrates the science and Science Fictional image-text relationship could be investigated by teasing the science from the fiction, leaving behind a system of sexual signs used to communicate through the advertisement and dissemination of these images and themes.
The large part of scholarly work surrounding Omni responds to its lineage within print history and Omni’s larger reverberations within it; Mike Ashley’s Gateways to Forever: The Story of Science Fiction Magazine from 1970-1980 (2007) provides a historical and biographical account of the magazines and its key players. This history will provide the necessary background upon which I will situate Omni within print’s contemporary lineage, and I intend to augment this history with a graphic design and science history. Furthermore, Omni’s affiliation with the dispersion of nanotechnology’s actors and information is outlined in Patrick McCray’s The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future. McCray provides a synthetic connection between the magazine and nanotechnology, illuminating the locations where this information is communicated in text.
After a twenty-year run Omni fell off the grid, literally and figuratively, when the mid-1990s economy took a downturn. Despite the financial trends and despite their counterparts’ folding around them, Omni managed to make the transition from print to digital format for their 1996 year, as more and more of their progressive and technologically audience adopted the web. Although the magazine successfully made the transition, Keeton died of breast cancer in 1997. Shortly thereafter in 1998, Omni fell into bankruptcy and Guccioni sold his assets, and later died in 2010. Eighteen years later in April 2013, the opportunity to re-open the business of printing predicted futures fell in to the lap of Claire Evans. On August 8, 2013, Omni Reboot launched online.
Omni Reboot reconnects with its past, featuring its usual suspects such as Bruce Sterling, Orson Scott Card, Rudy Rucker, and Ben Bova, biting the fantasy images off the old covers, and highlighting the old paranormal, Science Fictional, and sex-suggesting themes. Evans proclaims her intentions for the new Omni: “We don’t put science on a pedestal; instead, we drag it down into the city, onto the screen, and into the stream of everyday life.” Fitting Omni and Omni Reboot into the lineage of print culture is a significant historical practice and a complicated one at that given its eighteen-year jump into the future. However, in understanding its design methods that highlight visions of science’s scales of representation through sexuality, specific patterns of communication and dispersion of scientific thinking through popular science and Science Fiction magazines becomes very much emblematic of 2013.
-  Claire Evans, “About Us,” OMNI Reboot, accessed November 1, 2013, http://omnireboot.jerrickventures.com/about-us/.
This is a modified master’s thesis proposal for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s M. A. of Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism.