Falling Man – The Virtualization of the Violent Body
Source TitleIMAGE | SPACE | BODY AAANZ Conference 2015
PublisherArt Association of Australia and New Zealand
University of Melbourne Author/sGoodwin, Mitchell
Document TypeConference Paper
CitationsGoodwin, M. (2015). Falling Man – The Virtualization of the Violent Body. IMAGE | SPACE | BODY AAANZ Conference 2015, Art Association of Australia and New Zealand.
Access StatusOpen Access
Paul Virilio has noted the lowering of the horizon line in contemporary culture as the vision machine steps into the breach scouting the skies for suspicious vectors and surveying the Earth’s crust for glacial imperfections. At the same time our animal eyes turn away from the skies. We recoil at the violence of the heavens and bend our heads toward the safe glowing virtuality of the black mirror. As the millennium ticks over we are caught in an image loop defined by the vague outlines of the future. It was always a fabricated space, this technological promise, where the image of the body was defined by clean pale fabrics, glistening walls of chrome and pine amidst luminous trails of data. Always on the ground, always safe in the glass vestibule of progress. Our common shared reality is far different however, here the human form is rendered in a more vulnerable state of flux. On the mediated horizon line between the Earth and the atmosphere exists the figure of the falling man. The victim of our romance with vertiginous space and with our technological rush to colonize the air. This redrawing of the human form as an anonymous accomplice of the historical narrative is burnt into the infrastructure of the global network whose very survival is dependent on the repetition and repatriation of the image. This paper seeks to assess the virtualization of this networked body in violent repose – in flight, in space and in descent. Images such as Robert Drew’s photograph of the Falling Man on the morning of September 11 2001, of Commander Stone in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Warhol’s Death and Disaster series which, while fixated with death, also wears the markers of mankind’s doomed quest for verticality. It is indeed as Donna Haraway has observed, a cyborg of convergent renderings, but not as she intended. Rather it is a rerouting of the body in digital form into something that does in fact return to dust – bent and contorted by the bloody mess of machine intervention. The most despairing of images, weary with the weight of Virilio’s accident of technology, is almost imperceptible now behind a shroud of pixels. This magic trick, this cyber-friendly blurring of the machine’s interpretation of the body is now a familiar mode of visual discourse. A deliberate act of obscurification – to protect us, to shield us, to remind us of unspeakable things to push back against the glare of that ominous shimmer on the horizon.
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