Né inizio né fine
It is in the sour deserts beaten by the winds where the sets of Diego Brambilla are born for the movie that he will never shoot. Because his movie is concentrated in one only frame. The frames are the artist dreams with visible imprints of other images “2001 a space odyssey”, “Star Wars”, “Interstellar” and some pages of science fiction literature. Each picture gives cause for an ambiguous interpretation about its veracity which sits on the ridge between real and fake.
Brambilla immortalizes expanses that could be from other planets with colors, atmospheres, lights. Minerals and plausible details. The only dimensional parameters that can be found in completely empty spaces are related to the human figure: only one, unique, unattainable. A pioneer, an astronaut or the last man. A primitive nostalgia spreads within the absence of objects and constructions. The formally perfect photo, reveals, sometimes, the inauthenticity of the subject, other times the subject is camouflaged in the context of society show. The space suit is not one of a real astronaut but it is the work of the artist himself which, using angular and gloomy lights make the image in part truthful.
He actually works on the alteration and artificial construction of reality, for example the detail of a sculpture becomes the image of a distant planet surface.
However, his conceptual and poetic perspective did not prevent to his images, very often published in photography magazines, to be used as background (accompaniment) for an interview with the astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Beyond the visual aspect, Brambilla’s pictures and images, dry and essential, they are landscapes of the soul, states of mind, atmospheres full of mystery and uneasiness, distance and solitude. We could resume his work with a phrase of Yves Klein, pronounced 60 years ago: “Men will not achieve the conquest of space with rockets, sputniks or missiles, because that way men will always remain tourists in the space; but rather living it with sensitivity, which means, not to pass or stay in it but to let it penetrate, flood, making soul and body with the life which is this space where the quiet strength of pure imagination and a feudal world which like men, has never had a beginning or an end…”
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to visit another planet? Thinking beyond images, what would your senses tell you? What sounds would you hear and how would the ground feel, the food taste, or the odors smell?
Most of us don’t think about space settlement in this detail as it is hard to imagine the reality. All we know about space is mediated by narratives from those who have been to space and depictions in pop culture.
The hazards and risks of space are real. Physical hazards may involve sleep problems, radiation, bone loss, and eye problems, just to name a few. Basic needs are an issue as well such as oxygen, food, and shelter. Death is certain if these complications are not addressed in detail. Therefore, romanticism plays a large role in the drive to visit other worlds. Because of our imaginations and how the media interprets space exploration, we envision off-world settlements as somehow better than where we are now. We watch these environments unfold on a screen, made by a team of creative individuals. The recent film, The Martian depicts what might happen if one person was left on Mars to fend for themselves. Can we really know what that would be like? And can we really portray that experience in 2-3 hours? Television offers a more lengthy and in-depth imaginary of space travel. The Star Trek franchise has produced many series and episodes that focus on how humanity interacts with other life when exploring space. Our reality and our imaginations inform each other. Technologies created for Star Trek, such as the Tricorder are currently in production for us to use in real life. Alternatively, docking sensors used on the International Space Station have been adapted to be used in laser eye surgery. The liminal spaces between what we imagine and what seems to be real not only influence one another, but they create an ambiguity that puts us in a place of the unknown, and of unease. We want to know what is real, but we simply don’t have the evidence yet to make an informed decision on what deep space travel will be like. Space exploration is more of a cultural product than a realistic perspective.
And who would be the ones who could travel? There are only a few people who would be considered to settle on Mars as the first Martians. The people chosen would most likely come from privileged positions, supported by people in privileged positions. Even the language we use screams of power. We might want to rethink using the term colonization. It may not be a good idea to use a word that is associated with violence and subjugation, so a more appropriate term might be settlement. Many people on Earth do not have the luxury of food or shelter, which are necessities. It would be a long time, if at all, that heading out into space long term would be inclusive.
Those who have the means to go to Mars, may also be motivated by their legacy. Many people create meaning in their lives by thinking about their death. Knowing that our presence is fleeting, some of us strive to do whatever we can to have monuments in our name, have many children, build mausoleums, give monetary contributions, and perform amazing feats so that we feel like we have something of ourselves to leave behind for others to remember.
We see these as ways of immortalizing ourselves. This individualistic approach to memorializing, who we are and what we accomplish in life, is not inherently negative. What we do need to be mindful of is how our actions are impacting others. How are we implicated in what we do? What are the consequences of our actions in our striving for immortality? In the case for Mars, is getting there as fast as possible the right thing to do to claim “firstness?” What impact will our presence have on the planet and how will contamination factor into scientific investigation of Martian history? If there are ways to lessen or mitigate any negative consequences to us rushing to Mars, then perhaps that is something worth exploring, not only for ourselves, but for future generations. Immortalizing who we are does not need to come in the form of firstness, or making our names as big as possible; immortalizing ourselves can be living a great life while we are here, appreciating and passing on values and ideas such as love, compassion, respect, and equality.
What about the feelings involved and the psychological aspects of deep space travel? Astronauts have seen the earth from space, but what happens when our pale blue dot can no longer be seen with the naked eye? Communication lag times with earth, isolation, homesickness, anxiety, depression, and risks of psychosomatic issues are all factors that need to be well researched before we send anyone into space. Are you with a crew? How are those group dynamics coming along?
Venturing into space isn’t all bad. We can also anticipate feelings of wonder, elation, a global consciousness, perseverance, and self-reliance. However, we can only speculate. Diego’s images of space worlds unknown are constructed, yet they offer a realism that is lacking in the public discourse of space exploration today.
My First Dream helps to bring us one step closer to understanding what space exploration will be like: the desolate harshness of imagined space environments coupled with solitude. The miniscule human within a deserted expanse gives us an intense feeling of isolation. There is a beautiful dichotomy in the astronaut, as she appears to be constantly wandering and exploring yet at the same time seems so confined. He allows us to enter these visual worlds to evoke those feelings of loneliness within us.
This project offers a visual journey that everyone can relate to. Young or old, the photographs give impressions into the relationship between humanity, the environment, and ourselves. The images make us wonder and become inquisitive. Where are these planets? Of what are they composed? Did life exist there at one point? If so, what type of life? Are we really alone in the universe?
We can take Diego’s insights and incorporate them into the real or imagined ambiguity that is life. My First Dream gives us something tangible and elusive, daring to portray a quiet and isolated experience of space that goes beyond what pop culture has typically dictated to us.