high speed capsules
June 8, 2008, 11:53 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

A carapace is a protective outer covering like on a turtle or an airstream.  Here is a description of how the traditional tangible relationship between people and their landscapes is radically changed.  In cars, at higher speeds, for longer spells we gamble away the tangible for a remote gaze.

The landscape is a dynamic place shaped by natural forces that is culturally processed and refined by human action. It is both a container for humans and an object contained in human life that can be used and modified. Traditionally human cultural factors shape landscape and vice-versa: peoples inhabiting and gazing at this same landscape shape their own culture accordingly.

Nowadays however there is a radical change in this ‘traditional’, tangible relationship. In a society that is becoming increasingly mobile, more and more people belong to a new category: they are temporary inhabitants. They travel further, more often, sealed-off and at higher speed than ever before; they are those who do not inhabit land but commute through it and perceive it on the move when transported in high-speed ‘capsules’; those who do not fully engage their senses in the landscape experience but reduce the ‘physical’ interaction to a remote gaze; those at last, who have no roots in the landscapes they traverse.

In his book “The practice of everyday life” (1984) Michel de Certeau refers to this state as ‘traveling incarceration; immobile inside the train, seeing immobile things slip by’. It is only the machine (the train) that is in fact moving. But this movement causes a complete new vision of the world outside.


Here are three works by the photographer Gregory Crewdson, all untitled, set in the generic suburb, landscapes and portraits, each with strong beams of light.  They question our normative assumptions of what is real by showing meta real events.

The first is of a suburban neighborhood at dusk with stacks of railway ties in the foreground and several porch lights just on for the night.  There are three meta real lights:  the beam, the spot in the forground and the tree in the background.  All three light abjectly uninteresting subjects.

The second is a portrait of a woman perhaps in a dream, in her night clothes, simultaneously in her garden and in her kitchen.  She is a flesh and blood woman, fertile and organized. We see her in a meta real moment: conceivably the police have arrived, but more likely God or the Truth based on the intensity of the light.

The third is a pregnant woman in her yard at dusk in the suburbs, in the kiddy pool which her husband or boyfriend is filling with a hose while a friend sleeps on the lawn nearby.  The spot light is again extra human, like a renaissance annunciation:  a miracle birth in the yard.

Each image presents a narrative that collapses the distance between the banal and the transcendent wherein lies its power.

Untitled, from the series Twilight, Gregory Crewdson

untitled, Gregory Crewdson

untitled (pregnant woman/pool), Gregory Crewdson


(photograph by Todd Hido)

… the suburbs are the tundra, and at night the effect is doubled. The suburbs at night are what you see from the window of the plane: chains of light, some of them in patterns like a diagram, some of them too bright, some of them as diffuse as if underwater, all surrounded by nothingness.”

~Luc Sante

“The suburbs dream of violence. Asleep in their drowsy villas, sheltered by benevolent shopping malls, they wait patiently for the nightmares that will wake them into a more passionate world.”

~J.G Ballard