Our culture is a product of speed. From fast cars to last food it dictates the way in which we live, work and play. In the twentieth century, this accelerated age, speed has not only changed our world but also how we view our world.
In an exciting collaboration between The Photographers' Gallery and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, Speed explores the presence of speed in the work of some of this century's most visionary artists, from Boccioni to Hapaska, from Duchamp to Hamilton. The exhibition at The Photographers' Gallery focuses on the relationship between technology and the landscape and offers an arena to three younger artists.
Doug Aitken's American International; (1993) is a video installation documenting Ron Fringer's attempt to ride a supercharged motorcycle down a racetrack at 190 miles per hour. The black and white image of Fringer, taken from a camera attached to the bike, begins to disintegrate as he approaches 170 miles per hour; his presence is replaced by that of Cindy Crawford, standing in a film studio as she awaits shooting on a workout video. As director of photography on Crawford's video, Aitken produced the large backlit transparency in front of which she performed, a view of the Californian desert where Fringer raced. In turn, the transparency has now become the backdrop to this installation. A meditation on the creation of the perfect body, the perfect machine, American International also explores the mediation of nature, where landscape becomes a mediascape which we experience through technology.
The Longer Day by Paul Ram irez Jonas is a different sort of road movie. Based upon this quintessential American genre, Ramirez Jonas' video camera faces directly out of the windscreen as he drives due west from New York, straight towards the setting sun. Travelling at speed, in the same direction as the sun, Ramirez Jonas is able to delay its disappearance; at times it sets beneath the inclined road only to reappear, moments later. The fundamental rhythm of daily life - that of the sun rising, then setting - is disrupted by the simplest of highway journeys. At first an homage to the optimism of technological America, The Longer Day becomes a more complex race between the speed and machines and the speed of nature.
The relationship between these two speeds is also explored in Naoya
Hatakeyama's series of photographs of dynamite explosions in limestone quarries. Taken with a remote-controlled camera, metres from the explosion, these high-speed images arrest its dynamic movement, the rock face instead becoming baroque forms. Unable to control, or foresee, the composition of the final picture, these photographs become potent metaphors of modernity, technological images in which destruction and construction occur in the same instant.
Speed: Visions of an Accelerated Age, edited by Jeremy Millar and Michiel Schwarz
This specially commissioned book is an extremely important element of Speed. More than simply an illustrated catalogue, this book will develop the complex cultural themes raised by the project. Using both images and text, it will create an anthology of speed, exposing it as the defining theme of our age, and exploring how this might affect our future.
Designed by North Design Limited, the book will contain a special project by J.G.Ballard as well as featuring texts by leading cultural theorists and writers including Susan George and Peter Wollen.
The book is published by The Photographers' Gallery and the Whitechapel Art Gallery in association with MacDonald Stewart Art Centre, Ontario and the Netherlands Design Institute, Amsterdam.