Thursday, 28 March 2019
Red Sky Thinking
We need wilderness to imagine civilisation. In the ‘negative space’ of deserts, in particular, absences are telling. The very unpresence of people, and all the fabric of our towns and cities, becomes poignant. We imagine mirages of enticing watering holes, friendly faces, gentle voices, or a helping hand. Our solitude makes us painfully aware of all that we lack, even as we relish the peacefulness, the ‘head space’, and sense of self-determinacy. We make progress via our own efforts in a tangible, visceral way. Our perpendicularity is in direct tension to the seemingly endless flatness. Our bipedal progress is evolution in action. We taste the salt on our skin, slowly evaporating. We become hyper-aware of our moisture, energy, breath, and awakeness. Staying alive becomes our primary concern, giving our existence a primal, intense focus. Wildernesses foster blue-sky thinking – they help us to think outside the box, to re-imagine reality, reforge it in different ways. All things are, once again, possible. Such epic spaces as the Valle de la Luna, in the Atacama Desert, are science-fictional spaces. They not only inspire us to think on a cosmic scale, they are also useful for hard-core scientific research into conditions on our nearest neighbours. Scientists have used the Atacama to model analogous conditions on Mars. They are sobering reminders of what may befall our precious, fragile biomes if we do not treat them well – if we do not wish to suffer a Martian fate. Sometimes, some red sky thinking is needed to prevent the worst-case scenarios actually coming to pass. Science Fiction excels at these catastrophic thought experiments – the SF author sends the probe of their imagination down the sink hole, black hole, or worm-hole, recording for as long as possible before the signal is lost. In Black Box I did exactly that – visualising a voyage into the abyss, both literally and figuratively: humanity’s dark night of the soul (a dying Earth and a desperate final attempt to save its soon-to-be-homeless inhabitants and remaining resources). My aim was to find a gleam in the chasm – to face the (utter) dark and return with a glimmer of hope.
Text copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2019
Photography copyright (c) Vincent Fournier 2019
Check out more of Vincent's out-of-this-world space inspired photography here: