Air Columns

Matti Isan Blind


For the work-in-progress Air Columns (series-3), I expose found photographs to intense light. The images show big cities like Tokyo, Rio de Janero, Frankfurt etc. from a distant, detached point of view, hovering above. The lengthy process of exposure wrecks the photo material, which subsequently need to be scanned and reprinted. The work is still in progress, and the natural fading process continues at a faster pace after the deliberate light exposure then before.

The work refers to the visualization of the heat-death of the sun in the film Sunshine (2007) by Danny Boyle. The film manages to counter cinematic convention of associating fear and uncertainty with darkness - by showing the all too familiar sun as a close-by, blinding and dazzling star, as an ambiguous, 15 million C hot threat to human existence only seven light minutes away.

At the same time the works' title - 'Air Columns (series-3)' is an anagram of Simulacron-3, a sci-fi novel by Daniel F. Galouye (1964), which the films Matrix (1999) and the lesser known World on Wires (1973) by R.W. Fassbinder are based on.

Credited for being one of the first descriptions of virtual reality,

'Simulacron-3' is a supercomputer simulating the real world and property of RIEN REACTIONS, INC., built to forecast the manifold alternatives of the future and to use this knowledge to generate precise public-opinion polls on which to base a conforming society. However, the means of representation of Simulacron-3 are so accurate, that the figures (except for one) living within assume to live in the only existing world - they think that they exist (Descartes: 'I think, therefore I am'). Due to various disturbing events within Simulacron-3 its occupants start to question reality. The simulator's lead scientist, Hannon Fuller, dies mysteriously and a co-worker, Morton Lynch, vanishes. The protagonist, Douglas Hall, is with Lynch when he vanishes and Hall subsequently struggles to suppress his approaching madness. As time and events unwind, he realizes more and more that his own world is probably not "real" and may be nothing more itself than another computer-generated simulation.

The following transcript is from the opening scene of the Fassbinder film World on Wires. Four figures appear - however, it is unclear to the viewer if all of them are out of this world and/or know that they are not.


SCENE: Secretary of State, Mr. von Weinbaum, his subordinate, Mr. Hirse, Mr. Siskins (Head of the Company), Dr. Vollmer (Head of the Simulacron-3 project)

LOCATION: High up in an exclusive loft office looking over the city. Everyone sits on an circle shaped, white 70's couch, apart from Professor Vollmer, who looks out of the sleek, modernist window behind the couch. All of the men are wearing suits.

SISKINS: (Head of the Company) To make it short, Mister Secretary of State, Simulacron is partially functioning.

von WEINBAUM: (Secretary of State) Regard me as superficially informed. I am only interested in your definition of partially in this context.

SISKINS: Of course, Mr Secretary. I apologize. We are currently dealing with a - prognostic blur of a maximum of 5.8%.

von WEINBAUM: Aha, thank you.

SISKINS: Well, so Mr. Secretary - Dr. Vollmer, he can inform you exactly about the current state of things. As you know, we owe to him the development of Simulacron-3.

von WEINBAUM: Yes, we are aware of that, Mr. Siskins.

SISKINS: Dr. Vollmer, would you please?

Dr. VOLLMER: (Head of the Simulacron-3 project) Are you ... aehm, the Secretary of State?

von WEINBAUM: Yes. Of course!

Dr. VOLLMER: To be honest, I am not very interested in that - tell me, have you got a pocket mirror on you?

von WEINBAUM: A mirror? - Why?

Dr. VOLLMER: (pulling a small, round mirror out of his pocket) Take this one.

Dr. Vollmer walks towards the Secretary of State and sits down on the armrest of the couch next to him. He takes out his pocket mirror and holds it in front of the Secretary's face asking him:

Dr. VOLLMER: What do you see? What do you see? - I want to help you Mister von ... aehm?

von WEINBAUM: von Weinbaum!

Dr. VOLLMER: Whatever - von Weinbaum. What you see, is exactly the image that had been made of you. Nothing else!

von WEINBAUM: (stiffening slightly, looking puzzled) Excuse me, please?

Dr. VOLLMER: Thank you! And - do all of you know what you are?

SISKINS: Dr. Vollmer!

Dr. VOLLMER: Yes, you too, Siskins!

Dr. VOLLMER: (waving around with the mirror in his hand) Would you also like to look in the mirror? Come on - look! Look! Look at yourself!

Dr. VOLLMER: (holding his head, shaking it slowly) This is nothing but a sad joke.

SISKINS: Enough now, Dr. Vollmer!

von WEINBAUM: I think so too - this is going a bit too far! Hirse! I think we should better be leaving now.

Dr. VOLLMER: Ah! Headache! It pounds and pounds and pounds. You know what it is that pounds in my head? - I know what it is!

SISKINS: (to a guard) Guard? Please come over here. (to the Doctor, calmly) You are going to lie down now, Doctor. The guard will accompany you now to your offices.

GUARD: (holding Dr. Vollmer gently under his arm) Come, Doctor.

Dr. VOLLMER: This is no ordinary headache! It is much, much more. It is so much that my head is in danger of exploding! (Walking out slowly, arm in arm with the guard)

The Secretary of State and his subordinate, Mr. Hirse look bewildered at the Doctor, as he is walking away from them.

GUARD: (to the Doctor) Come with me.

Dr. VOLLMER: (to the Guard) I 'm coming, Guenther. They do not want to understand, those poor bastards.

SISKINS: (to the Guard) Watch out for him.

SISKINS: (turns to the Secretary) I have to apologize for Dr. Vollmer, Mister Scretary of State. Lately, he often was working day and night. His nerves had always been a bit raw - the border of genius and madness, you know?

von WEINBAUM: Either way, a very strange form of madness, don't you think so?

SISKINS: Yes Mr. Secretary, very strange indeed. If you could excuse me for a minute?

von WEINBAUM: Please!

Mr. Siskins walks out of the scene. Left alone, the Secretary of State Mister von Weinbaum, grabs the arm of his subordinate, Mr. Hirse, and turns him around 180 degrees, making him stand in front of a large mirror:

von WEINBAUM: (looking at Mr. Hirse, confrontational) Please!

HIRSE: Mister von Weinbaum, I ...

von WEINBAUM: Come on, look into the mirror! What do you see? Come on, look! What do you see?

HIRSE: (looks up at the mirror, then quietly) ... myself.