Trade Winds and Westerlies

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<i>Trade Winds and Westerlies</i>

Revisiting the Western representation of conquest through tinkered machines, instruments, photographs, videos and virtual images.

Master’s degree exhibition, at the Cube, building H, 7 avenue de Châtelaine, 1203 Geneva. In June 2021.

Technicals specifications:

Wood, cinder block, foam, metal, plexiglass, rope, video projector, computers, tv screen, cameras, speakers.
Surface of the entire installation: approximately 900 x 900 cm.

Trade Winds and Westerlies explore how representations of space and landscape in the mainstream media transmit and construct narratives based on our conceptions of the unknown, the distant and the otherness. This project involves cinematographic archetypes developed through the Western genre since 1939 in Hollywood, such as: the indispensable use of landscape in the narrative, the importance of the horizon line in the composition of images or the particular colorimetric rendering resulting from the Technicolor process.

Around 1870, at the high point of the conquest of the West, American pioneers mistakenly introduced a plant called «Russian thistle» into South Dakota. It takes the form of a bush which, once dry, rolls with the wind. In a few decades, this invasive plant, renamed «tumbleweed», conquered all the territories from Mexico to Alaska.

Front of the billboard. 400 x 330 x 158 cm.

Back of the billboard. 400 x 330 x 158 cm.

This film projected on a screen taking the form of a billboard is a simulation generated in real time by a computer program that autonomize the wind production. This climatic phenomenon allows a tumbleweed to move randomly through different ecosystems. These are created from topographic data of filming locations of the movies The Searchers (1956) directed by John Ford, Apocalypse Now (1979) directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Interstellar (2014) directed by Christopher Nolan. Tumbleweeds grow in anthropized spaces, meaning places that have been modified by human activity. This simulation proposes to symbolize and reinterpret the human colonization of various spaces through the migration and conquest of a ruderal plant species.

Extract of the simulation. The tumbleweed is in Monument Valley’s ecosystem. In the foreground, the jungle ecosystem is visible.

Extract of the simulation. The tumbleweed is in the jungle ecosystem.

Extract of the simulation. The tumbleweed is in a glacier. In the background, there is a flag in the ground.

Spectator operating the structure. By handling the ropes the triple-camera recording the diorama, moves on two axes. 175 x 215 x 175 cm.

A structure includes a camera system arranged in order to film, from above, a diorama representing the terrain of the previous simulation. This system can be operated by the spectator with ropes. This installation allows to experiment in a ludic way the vertical shooting of the landscape so representative of aerial surveillance technologies. These have become a certain scientific, tactical and documentary standard to represent blurred and inaccessible territories in conflicts, embargoes or wars.

Structure on which the video is broadcast live. 80 x 100 x 85 cm.

Top view of the simulation diorama.

Video streams of the diorama are captured by a camera that has been tinkered to reproduce the Technicolor process: the first technology that allows the stable production of color cinematographic images. The internal system of the triple camera is composed of a prism which separates the image in three colorimetric versions: cyan, magenta and yellow. The superposition of these three colored layers allows the creation of a color film by adapting the trichromatic process developed by Technicolor, from 1928, to the standards of the digital domain.

Triple-camera reproducing the Technicolor process. 28 x 13 x 32 cm.