October 20, 2004

downside up


When I was a child I used to imagine that in Australia everything was upside down, somehow stuck onto the earth by this thing adults called "gravity". Thinking about this again now it seems obvious that it's true, that there is no up, nor down. Depending on ones point of view one is standing up or hanging on at some peculiar angle.

I was reminded of this by a couple of things.

A friend of mine, a film maker, Tom Paine, has been sending me beautiful films he's shot which are filmed upside down. An inverted ferry glides out of a harbour accross the roof of the sea, while its reflection sails upright above it. Two people are sucked back up into the waves while they try and leap down to the sky . . .

Italo Calvino, in the story "The Distance from the Moon" (from his book "Cosmicomics"), tells a tale about a time when the moon was so close to the earth that at the highest of tides one could ascend a ladder from a boat and clamber onto its surface. Having reached the top of the ladder, he describes how one had to "swing up abruptly, with a kind of summersault, throwing your legs over your head until your feet were on the moons surface. Seen from the earth, you looked as if you were hanging there, with your head down, but for you it was the normal position, and the only odd thing was that when you raised your eyes you saw the sea above you, glistening, with the boat and the others upside down, hanging like a bunch of grapes from the vine."

I started thinking about inverting the base of the telescope to form a pivot, a fulcrum for the world, to be viewed standing on ones head, or in a camera obscura, the image being pinholed upside down onto the wall. A sculpture to mark the position of the north and south poles, the hinges on which the earth spins.

Out of the blue an invitation has arrived to consider making a piece of work at the location of a lough full of eels in the centre of Northern Ireland. The eels in their well of dark, deep water mirror the black depths of the universe, awriggle with cosmic strings. I'd like to prop up the lough with an inverted "V" structure, between the legs of which hang the 25 foot antenna for the 20.1 MHz telescope I'm now close to completing. The sounds of the Sun and Jupiter mixed with the eels sounds piped up from the depths of the lough, the panorama of the inverted landscape viewed from an adjacent hut/camera obscura.

Posted by Jem Finer at October 20, 2004 1:49 PM