Kochi | Four years ago, Christian Waldvogel boarded a plane and flew westward at supersonic speed to shoot a video that succeeded in showing that the earth turned for a while without me. Today, back on the planet, that unique four-minute aerial visual by the Swiss artist is wooing visitors at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), now on here.
To not turn with the earth requires terrific effort, but it hints at a simple idea: humanity strives best to make no progress, says the 43-year-old Zurich resident Waldvogel, whose work has been at the main Aspinwall House venue in suburban Fort Kochi. It was on March 17, 2010 that Waldvogel succeeded in his persistent efforts to get into a Swiss Air Force (SAF) plane and move at exactly 1,158 kilometres per hour the rotational velocity of the earth in his native country that spreads across both sides of the scenic Alps in west-central Europe.
He thus got to film the earth’s rotation while standing still with respect to the sun. It was a project that involved roughly 90 people; one-third of them from my side, reveals the artist. Waldvogel’s ‘The Earth Turns Without Me’ is a four-part installation at India’s only biennale, thus tuning into the core curatorial theme ‘Whorled Explorations’ where biennale’s artistic director Jitish Kallat has assembled works that allude to cosmology often referencing this ancient city.
When Kallat met Waldvogel at Zurich in the run-up to KMB’14, the Swiss artist was intrigued by the way Indians tilt their head while talking. As for Kallat, he finds Waldvogels works contemplative and sometimes even humorous.
They look at humanity from a distance and are often grounded in intricate scientific calculations, adds the curator of 108-day KMB14, which shows 100 main artworks by 94 artists from 30 countries. To achieve his aim of remaining stationary vis-a-vis the Sun, the artist converted the SAF planes rear cockpit into a pinhole camera that he would use to shoot the solar systems central star.
Why four minutes? Each degree of longitude is equivalent to that much of time, he cites the reason behind the span of the edited version. The project was triggered by two light-box images Earthstill and Starstill, which Waldvogel shot and are also being exhibited at the Biennale.
The first reveals stars as streaks because they are blurred by the earths motion, while the latter is a clear image of the stars using an astronomers camera that cancels the planets motion. Then, there is also the suns image displayed as a concentrated point.
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