Trade Winds and Westerlies

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<i>Trade Winds and Westerlies</i>

Materials: wood, cinder blocks, foam insulation, aluminum, Plexiglas, ropes, video projector, computer, screen, cameras, speakers.
Surface of the whole installation: approximately 900 x 900 cm.

Trade Winds and Westerlies examines certain methodologies of landscape representation that craft Western conceptions of otherness and the frontier in popular media. This project involves cinematic 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, the particular colorimetric rendering resulting from the Technicolor process.

Around 1870, at the height of the conquest of the West, American pioneers mistakenly introduced a plant called "Russian thistle" into South Dakota. It is shaped like a bush that, once dry, rolls in the wind. In a few decades, this invasive plant, renamed "tumbleweed", has conquered all the territories between Mexico and Alaska.
The film projected on a screen, shaped like a billboard, is a simulation generated in real time by a computer program that autonomizes the production of wind. This climatic phenomenon allows a tumbleweed to move randomly through different ecosystems. These ecosystems are created from the topographic data of the film locations of The Searchers (1956) directed by John Ford, Apocalypse Now (1979) directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Interstellar (2014) by Christopher Nolan.
Tumbleweeds proliferate in anthropized spaces, meaning places modified by human activity. The simulation proposes to symbolize and reinterpret the notion of colonization through the migration of a plant species.

A few meters away from the screen, a structure integrates a camera device arranged to film a diorama representing the terrain of the 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 the technologies of aerial surveillance. These have become a certain scientific, tactical and documentary standard to represent inaccessible territories.

The video streams of the diorama are recorded by a camera developed to reproduce the first process that allows the stable production of color film images. The internal system of this triple camera is composed of a prism that separates the image into three colorimetric versions: cyan, magenta and yellow. The superposition of these three colored layers allows the conception of a color film which adapts the trichromatic process developed by Technicolor, since 1928, to the standards of the digital domain.

This project was realized at the HEAD – Geneva. It was supervised by Noam Toran.
Special thanks to: Noam Toran, Alexandra Midal, El Ultimo Grito, Arno Mathies, Emma Pflieger, Margaux Janin and Dominic Robson.
3D credits: © Tanguy Benoit, © Sascha Henrichs (Ambient Wind System), © Epic Games (Open World Demo Collection & Twinmotion Materials for Unreal Engine)
Photo credits: © HEAD – Geneva, Baptiste Coulon, © Tanguy Benoit