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Emanation l

Emanation l

Futurism, 2000

Emanation i presents a variant of the traditional Futurist image. While it employs transparency and successive overlapping images of a single object, it does so in an unconventional manner. The vast majority of Futurist images represent vertical or horizontal motion across the picture plane. Few Futurist images represent motion towards or away from the viewer. In those that do deal with the recession of space, or depth, an accompanying change of scale is represented along with a change in location.

As they are in motion, the contours of objects in many Futurist images change. The contour of a moving object changes only if its component parts move in addition to the location of the object or if rotation is introduced. As a stone is a whole piece, without limbs or appendages, its contour changes only if rotation is introduced. Here it is not.

In this image, the change the stone undergoes is less a change in position than it is a change in size. One of the factors that helps determine this is the anchoring of the bottom edge of the stone to a single point. The top edge changes position but the bottom does not. Part of the stone changes location while the other does not. If the position of any point in an object remains the same in successive representations, then the object is seen as moving around or relative to that point.

Another factor that helps reinforce that the type of motion in this image is more a change of scale than of location is the arrangement of the accompanying images and their transparencies. Here the larger, more transparent aspects are placed in back of the smaller, less transparent ones. If this arrangement were reversed, then the object would appear to recede in space, leaving ghostly residues behind its trajectory or further towards the viewer. Deep space would be created. Then the anchoring of the bottom of the stone to a single point might be read as coincidence due to a particular vantage point. But this is a less likely explanation. Coincidence creates an ambiguous tension in an image. When we read an image without sufficient information to guide us conclusively, we form hypotheses to determine the most likely explanation. When in doubt, we defer to explanations that do not require coincidence, since by its very nature coincidence is unlikely, though not impossible. Sometimes coincidence is the very thing that thrills us. We struggle to disbelieve, but when a coincidence supports continued testing, we marvel at it. This can be undermined when too many coincidences occur simultaneously. One coincidence seems marvelous, two seem astounding, many seem impossible.

The repetition of the same figure makes it fairly certain that this is not a matter of multiplication. It is rather a matter of a change in state. The change of state is not just in location but also in duration or substance. In typical Futurist images, objects in motion are, to one degree or another, transparent, but become less transparent where separate aspects drawn from separate moments overlap. In this image the entire contour of one aspect is contained in its next larger aspect, the separate aspects overlap entirely, and each aspect is successively more or less transparent. Again this reinforces the impression that the object’s motion is not simply a matter of relocation but also a matter of expansion or contraction. While the stone in this image could be read either as expanding or contracting, it is most likely that we will defer to contraction because its smallest aspect is most opaque, while its largest aspect is most transparent. Transparency is a visual clue to impermanence, while opacity indicates durability. Within the vocabulary of Futurism, increased opacity may simply indicate a larger duration of time in a single position.

What I did not expect was for this image to turn from day to night. A great many skies were tried, with varying amounts of information, stretched across many angles, in many shapes. In the end, simplicity seemed best. It allowed the focus of attention to remain on what was most mysterious, a stone in the process of transformation.

The relative uniformity of the light on the stone was at odds with the strong shadows contained in the foreground. I tested another image of the stone with a heavier shadow. It changed the geometry of the image entirely, unbalancing it. The strong dark line of the shadow competed with the light line in the stone. The stone became a semicircle rather than an oval. Besides an aesthetic balance, something else had been lost. In the night sky, the stone seemed reminiscent of a moon or planetary body. Without the heavy shadow, it seemed capable of either emitting its own or reflecting another’s light. Somehow, the competing light sources needed to be married. So, rather than darken the stone, I lightened the ledge it rested upon. Two realities became one. Now the stone’s emission of light was complete. It is not so dramatic that luminescence becomes the point of the picture, usurping the motion of the stone; it is, instead, understated but present.

Right around the time I made this image I read about the strong sunspot activity that had been occuring and would occur throughout the year. The sun was radiating massive amounts of energy towards the earth. This actually compacted the earth’s magnetosphere to half its normal size. The concentric ovals of the stone’s outlines with a bright center seemed reminiscent of a diagram of a solar system. The stone’s radiation of itself into the world, growing fainter and fainter, reminds me of a planetary body’s magnetosphere or an organism’s bioelectric field. The stone may be contracting, but it is also radiating both light and presence.

Four other images in this book (XVIII, XXXV, XXXVI, and XX) present variants of Futurist modes of representation. Three (XVIII, XXXV, and XX), unlike this one, do so ambiguously. They present each aspect of a single object in an isolated fashion. Because the images of the object do not overlap and are not transparent, the individual images can be read either as separate objects or as a single object in motion. The connective tissue between each aspect has been removed and they are no longer as easily read as a single figure in motion (XXXVI — Extension i). While the others involve a consistent rotation or twisting that can be deduced, the more dramatic one (XXXV — Wild Stones) is particularly difficult to read as a single figure in motion because the transitions between each aspect are both dramatic and inconsistent.

Before making this image, I had been sketching an image of an ocean horizon that was echoed and continued by a line in a rock visually marking the waterline. In this image, the repetition of the single line at varying heights made this waterline fall. The motion of the line alone, separate from the whole stone, might actually be more typical of traditional Futurist motion.