|Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Cloud Prototype No. 1 (2001), fiberglass and titanium alloy foil|
The schema of extreme polarities in size reminded me of the two scientific images—an image of a cell and of an exploding star—I found so striking when thinking about impossible images. In many ways science works with scales that stretch the limits of the imaginable, or by using mathematics and data as forms of abstraction to manage the quantitatively big or the inconceivably small.
But conceiving scale concretely, as a visual image, can matter a lot in social ways. The first images of the earth from space created a point of view that had not existed before the 1960s, even though they described a concept that had been comprehended for centuries—a post-Copernican universe, in which the Earth is a planet among others. But those images entered the collective social imaginary instantly and viscerally, as something quantitatively new. In an odd way, the Apollo photographs didn’t de-centre the Earth into a universe wider than we can imagine so much as re-center it for our vision. By placing the whole Earth in the center of the frame of television images beamed to one of the first global audiences, those photographs let us see the planet in an entirety new way: as an entity. Many descriptions of these images invoke a sense of the fragility of the Earth, and they have been credited with contributing to a ecological consciousness.
For the first time in my life I saw the horizon as a curved line. It was accentuated by a thin seam of dark blue light - our atmosphere. Obviously this was not the ocean of air I had been told it was so many times in my life. I was terrified by its fragile appearance.