Of the muscles: now bunching and heaping at the shoulders.
Of mud: for the first time in fashion history, jumping in thick drops as wind’s new mode blows it free from the ground.
Of light: reflecting instantaneously from smooth leather lowering itself into two dark cockpits.
And on a wing, a fingerprint. This is the witness’s mark of a pre-literate history. It is to be interpreted as attesting that a camera attached to someone’s body has recorded a new mode of seeing the body. Until that instant there had never been a fashion plate representing an air full of the preparation for flight. Not until then had there been a need for a word meaning, “Last moment before two bodies drop heavily into something that mind has made and then rise free of body.” But such a word is what is expressing itself through you now.
Source: “Pilots climbing into the cockpit of a Curtiss JN-4 Canuck,” Provincial Archives of Alberta, Robert McKenzie fonds, PR1991.0305/23, https://www.flickr.com/photos /alberta_archives/17428524715/in/photostream/. At https://jonathanmorse.blog/2015/05/09/transport-ii/ I also discussed this image in 2015, but not in this Photoshopped form. Modern images of a reconstructed Canuck can be found at https://fairchild24.com/canuck.htm.
For those soon to receive death from the air, a rubber body has lifted itself and begun to float in a medium formulated from air and the idea of air. It is free already from the earth that we its destined victims plod, and soon the doors of its cathedral-lighted matrix will swing open and deliver it to the sky over our poor heads.
The celebrant of the opening has already started delivering his text. It promises to those who believe:
His name is Mark Anthony, this is his picture with the rubber body behind him and a gas implement in his hand,
and the face you see might serve as an icon of one of the Christian saints called Doctors of the Church: those whose teachings have become doctrine. By command and in experimental fact, the teaching that emanates from this shining body will have to be taken as true. In only a short time from now, the venous vessels connecting it to earth will be clamped off and released, the pains of its emergence through the doors into the light will begin, and the shadow it casts from heaven for the first time will be seen to be everlasting.
Sources: My post of August 7, 2018, “‘I have the means to make myself deadly,'” https://jonathanmorse.blog/2018/08/07/i-have-the-means-to-make-myself-deadly/, includes and cites the photograph of Mark Anthony and the January 4, 1909, clipping from the Cincinnati Enquirer. The image “Anthony’s wireless airship” is in the George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014683106/. Post-processed.
Source: actress Edna French, Curtiss Field, Long Island, 1924. The Lammot du Pont, Jr. collection of aeronautical photographs, Hagley Museum and Library, hagleyvault.org.
Monet’s haystacks are a pastoral technology. Unchanged in form since the mummy god Osiris taught men to plant seeds in the earth, they remain still on the earth while the wheeling light passes over them. It is from such stillness under change that we have become aware of time.
This image is a Monet landscape, but its pastoral imagery is now shrunken almost to unnoticeability. High and large in the foreground and, as the image’s title says, ascending, a new technology is sending unchanging shadow back up to the sky from which changing light once descended unchecked, bringing with it life and death in seasonal alteration. Linear Marinetti history is superseding cyclical Monet history. A hundred years ago, says this historical record, death was on the rise.
Source: Aufstieg eines Jagdflugzeuges (“Ascent of a fighter plane”), Austria-Hungary, about 1917. National Library of Austria, http://www.bildarchivaustria.at/Pages/ImageDetail.aspx?p_iBildID=4814016. Photoshopped.
Source: “Le zeppelin ‘L 49’ abattu à Bourbonne-les-Bains [le 20 octobre 1917].” Photograph by Agence Rol, Bibliothèque nationale de France, http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b530036907/f1.item. Photoshopped.
Year by year during the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century, organic chemists fashioned transformations upon the unassuming body of a smelly liquid called aniline. Under their godmothering guidance, aniline submitted to change after brilliant change from her transparent pale yellow to a whole wardrobe of dyes, color after lovable color. Every season Cinderella would re-emerge from the laboratory to be seen anew, and the chemistry of progress made sure that she was seen with ever more excitement as the century went on.
So when the long nineteenth century ended with excitement in 1914, the Russian artist I. D. Sytin was equipped to showcase the change. For effects of the lurid he had tube after tube of bright new primary colors, but for ironic contrast he also had something delicate. Sytin’s lithograph “War in the Air,” its flame yellows and flame reds set off by midnight blue, is printed on paper tinted pink.
Thanks to the pink, the whole lithograph, in both its primary image and its explanatory text, has a ground of rosy conflagration-color. That doesn’t just make the flames in the figure seem to burn hotter; it also desaturates the no longer bright blue of the river shining innocently under starlight and consolidates the fine-print nuances of the text into a single hysterical scream in rubric red. The catalog of the Hoover Institution Poster Collection stubbornly insists that the two elements unified by pink within the image frame are still separate, and it formats its insistence as an equivalent pair of sentences in archival black-and-white: “Painting depicts aerial battle with airplanes and airships. Text underneath describes modern aerial warfare.” But what Sytin’s stones impressed on his picture wasn’t a separable pair of stimulants to sense-impression; it was an ensemble. In its presence a century later, the excitement we have been roused to isn’t archival, it’s historical.
Perhaps the distinction is that the historical sense at least hints at an idea of ensemble: a single consciousness sharable between a record and its reader. A historical record, perhaps, is a text that can be experienced as immediately as the color pink. At any rate, in the presence of this particular array of colors, the historical sense may remind us that it and we now subsist in a world no longer conceivable in black and white. Three quarters of a century before I. D. Sytin set to work, chemists began excitedly coloring in the world’s blank spaces, and it is no longer possible to see what the world was like before that moment. By 1914, says a Russian chronology written in aniline pink, the synthesized product was even filling in the sky.
Source: Hoover Institution Poster Collection (http://www.lunacommons.org/luna/servlet/HOOVER~1~1), item no. RU/SU 365. Photoshopped.
Unattributed woodcut, about 1850, in the Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003672999/. Photoshopped. The lines of verse are by the botanist-poet Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), grandfather of Charles Darwin.