Noortje Marres log 3-3: After

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But to return to the prints – one thing I liked about them, was when people visited and recognized them from the video recording of the Spiral Drawing Sunrise event in Amsterdam, which I showed a couple of times during lectures. In these talks, I drew on the experiment to make a particular argument, presenting it as a particular kind of device of “environmental participation”. What interested me there was  the way in which the robot cart making its recording of the sunrise enacted the environment in a particular way: it turned the square, the passing bank employees, the rising sun and so on into a happening place. Making its circles, the robot cart amplified all the movements making up the setting, rendering this location in and as movement. In doing so, Spiral Drawing Sunrise suggested a very different way of approaching “the environment” than the more customary ‘static’ understanding of it. In social studies of ‘public engagement with the environment.’ the environment all too frequently figures as a static marker of damage done – X tons of carbon; X miles of food, X species extinct. Spiral Sunrise does the environment differently: it tells us that in order to render a distant environment like the sun present in the here and now, it is crucial to capture its movement. It rendered the environment as a happening, to use a term Celia Lury and Nina Wakeford proposed.

But finding these prints in our living room made for different kinds of connections.
The sheets were much bigger on our wall then on the ground in the square. Something to do with the size of London apartments, obviously – but also something about the proportions one expects a record to have in relation to the recorded – one doesn’t expect them to be life-sized. Also, on our wall the analogy with planetary movements seemed even more obvious. The trace of the cart in sand dots: like so many snapshots of the planets on their course. What mostly stands out, then, is movement. It was a good reminder for me: in order to make points, it is not always necessary to freeze phenomena – points can be made in and as motion. Which is perhaps easy to say, but not necessarily easy to realize for someone who spends so much time sitting still at a desk, as I do.

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