Sir W. Mitchell Thompson, Radio Corporation of America (American), 1926. Photoradiogram, 4 x 5 1/4″ (10.2 x 13.3 cm). The New York Times Collection, MoMA.
A semi edited draft of outline for Triple Canopy’s Miscellaneous Uncatalogued Material tomorrow at MoMA:
We’ll visit three works on view, with commentary from David.
Radio Corporation of America, Sir W. Mitchell Thompson (1926)
By the 1860s, Giovanni Caselli’s pantelegraph had succeeded Alexander Bain’s facsimile machine from the late 1840s as the first viable image transmission device. A proliferation of image-transmission technologies would soon follow: analog telephone facsimile, wirephoto, radiofax, thermofax, teleostereograph, bildetelegraph, etc.
Giorgio de Chirico, Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure) (1914)
Looking at the evidence of the painting, not necessarily the painter’s intentional meaning, we see the railroad, the clock, and the shadow’s of the sun. The steam engine allowed us to move faster than the natural speeds of nature (water currents, bodies in motion, etc…), and brought about the standardization of time, complicating all notions of locality. Local solar time, as indicated in the sun’s shadows, changes to clock time, the time of industry.
László Moholy-Nagy, Construction in Enamel 3 (1923)
“In 1922 I ordered by telephone from a sign factory five paintings in porcelain enamel. I had the factory’s color chart before me and I sketched my paintings on graph paper. At the other end of the telephone, the factory supervisor had the same kind of paper divided into squares. He took down the dictated shapes in the correct position (it was like playing chess by correspondence.)” —Moholy-Nagy
Then, we’ll head to the archive study room for a conversation.
We’ll discuss the three works above, plus some other ideas:
In this moment of the upheaval of space and time, a new kind of “movement” had emerged. Space was no longer an obstacle separating two locations. Initially a movement of language, with the telegraph transmitting through wires, and the radio over broadcast signal, images soon joined in. At this moment images seen at one location, could be viewed the same day in a different location. This re-shaped the temporality in the viewing of images. Looking at something was still a trace of something that had happened, but this had was drastically reduced to that of something moments ago. The idea of a right now somewhere else became visible.
Still from Spot News feature, 1937 (video). “How photographs are transmitted by wire, an exciting new technology in the 1930s.”
What was and is the cognitive effect of “images happening now”? This is birth of the idea of visual simultaneity, which not only was a precursor to the Internet, but created the conditions of the observer for this imaginative space. Is this a radical moment in history, a kind of rupture, where the images that one sees on a daily basis shifts to the idea of being of something happening right now?
Photo transmitted by radio from New York to London on May 11, 1936, announcing the arrival of the dirigible Hindenburg at Lakehurst, Phototelegraphy, May 11, 1936, private collection.
It seems likely that warfare may have motivated many of these technologies. Or at least these technologies were eventually militarized, leading ultimately to the “simultaneous reception” of the drone. There’s something a little sinister about 20’s and 30’s “interwar” technology because it’s presentation in contemporary literature and advertising is always so healthy and innocent, but in the back of our minds we’re always imagining how it’s going to be used in WWII and the Cold War.
“First Wirephoto Ever Sent Is Herewith Reproduced in The Dallas News,” 1935. Plane crash in the Adirondacks.
How did these technologies expand the role of the news correspondent and, in turn, the nature of publication, both in terms of geography and production? How were the means of image transmission, both apparatus and signal, commodified in service of this newly expanded industry?
David Horvitz, “For a Brief Time Only.”
How do we willfully obscure or misread history by using one paradigm of technology, the first “image environment,” to understand our own? What is entailed by image production (the taking of a photograph), transmission (distribution channel, radio wire), and reception (receiving a fax is different than viewing a television screen or reading a newspaper where a photo is reproduced that arrived at the newsroom over a wire)? Who owns the hardware and who owns the signals?
Play this at end:
This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 at 5:22 pm.