Eyes in the Sky: The History of the Aerial Perspective
Thursday, March 6
In Eyes in the Sky: The History of the Aerial Perspective, historian Paula Amad, artist Raphaël Dallaporta, and scholar Laura Kurgan will discuss the past and present of aerial photography. Approaching the issue from the perspective of historian, practitioner, and contemporary observer respectively, Amad, Dallaporta, and Kurgan will reflect on the poetics and problematics of the aerial image.
Amad’s writing explores the aesthetic and philosophical structures and understandings that have accompanied the “eye in the sky” since early experiments with airplane photography—a perspective which is, as she puts it, “dialectically situated between the poles of science and art, rationality and imagination.” She will present rare aerial photographs and films from the first two decades of the twentieth century. Dallaporta is a contemporary producer of aerial images, whose work explores our habitats and activities from the sky. For his project Ruins, he flew a multicopter drone over Afghan archaeological sites that hadn’t previously been documented from the air. His work with drones is both a photographic experiment and a commentary on the relationships between technology, style, information, and power. Kurgan’s book Close Up at a Distance explores how satellite representations of our landscapes are increasingly informing our understanding of the spaces we inhabit. She argues that the aerial data that mediate our relationship with our environment are “infinitely scalable, absolutely contingent, open to vision and hence revision.”
Set against a wealth of aerial images, the event will challenge the audience to consider how the aerial perspective has become entwined with surveillant power and, by extension, violence and fear, even though it also enables new, sympathetic ways of seeing and understanding.
Confounding Expectations is presented by Aperture Foundation in partnership with the Photography Department at Parsons The New School for Design, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.
Paula Amad is an associate professor in the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa. She is the author of Counter-Archive: Film, the Everyday and Albert Kahn’s Archives de la Planète (2010) and numerous articles, which have appeared in History of Photography, Cinema Journal, Film History, Camera Obscura, and Framework, among other journals. She is currently writing a book focused on an alternative history of modern aerial vision across photography and film, for which she has done extensive research in archives across Europe and the United States. She received a grant for philosophy and photography research from the Shpilman Institute for Photography in 2011. Most recently, Amad was awarded the 2014 Katherine Singer Kovács Award for Outstanding Essay by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies for her article in Cinema Journal titled, “Visual Riposte: Looking Back at the Return of the Gaze as Postcolonial Theory’s Gift to Film Studies.”
Raphaël Dallaporta is a documentary photographer. He is concerned with public issues addressing human rights, as well as more symbolic subjects such as the fragility of life. His long-term projects, which combine text and images, are a product of his collaborations with professionals from a wide range of fields. Dallaporta uses an aerial drone equipped with a camera to capture aerial images of his subjects. He is the winner of the 2010 Young Photographer Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography and Foam’s 2011 Paul Huf Award. He has had solo exhibitions at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland, New York Photo Festival, and Les Rencontres d’Arles, among many others in Europe, Asia, and New York. His work is included in the collections of the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne; Fonds national d’art contemporain, Paris; and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris.
Laura Kurgan is an associate professor of architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. She is director of the Visual Studies curriculum and the Spatial Information Design Lab, and is co-director of the Advanced Data Visualization Project. Kurgan is the author of Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics (2013). Her work explores digital mapping technologies, ethics and politics of mapping, and the visualization of big and small data, and has appeared at the Fondation Cartier, Paris; Venice Architecture Biennale; Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, New York; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She was the winner of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship in 2009.
Image: Raphaël Dallaporta, Ruins (season 1), 2011
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the board and members of Aperture Foundation.