3 screen video installation


The imagery is made up entirely of material drawn from the World Wide Web: (where astrology has become a significant presence.) The footage draws on computer generated star-charts and commentaries generated by computer programmes and which give ‘readings’ of individuals by responding to each unique positioning and relation of planets and constellations (as represented by the chart), each one of these- according to the traditions of astrology - has a particular meaning. The Star chart is specific to the date, time, and place of birth of an individual.

The imagery and text are filmed from the screen of the computer which results in a very textured and physical image with luminescence, moiré lines etc. The markings on the screen become almost a landscape that the lens is flying over. At the same time the charts and texts recall plans and maps being photographed by a small spy camera. So the image has qualities that brings to mind both the idea of the material being photographed in an office on the sly as well coming from a camera a flying over in a spy satellite or plane.

The star-charts are of individuals involved with the current Middle East situation - including the governments, the war on Iraq, the Palestinian Israeli situation and Al-Quaida, - including Tony Blair, George W Bush, Donald Rumsfeld. Osama Bin-Laden, Saddam Hussein, Ariel Sharon, Colin Powell, Yasser Arafat, Dick Cheney, Geoff Hoon Condaleeza Rice and so on. They represent individuals and groupings about whom people tend to have strongly held beliefs, or feel at least that they have some understanding of and the way that their actions are directly shaping our experience of the world.

In the installation one screen presents the full chart, another a section of the text commentary relating to a specific relationship or section (an opposition, a placing, or something ‘rising’), and that specific relationship or section of the chart is shown as a detail on in the third screen. These images cut from one screen to another as if flashing up on the monitors in a control room. They progress through different planetary and astrological relationships and reference different individuals charts. The full chart always has the name of the individual it is of somewhere on it (although these are not necessarily fore-grounded) so that the viewer will know who the charts and descriptions are pertaining to.

The soundtrack consists of a reading of the projected texts. The voice is mixed in with the sound of satellites that are orbiting the earth which are relaying back information.

The installation is building on my long interest in how we make sense of the world around us and how we construct systems of reading and narrative. INTELLIGENCE is specifically looking at the ideas and narratives of technology within the contemporary West and the promise that it seems to embody of greater objective knowledge. The current intelligence gathering capabilities of America are very much focused on the technologies of satellite interception, spy cameras, electronic bugging etc rather than human beings being placed in certain locations. Technology /modernity has become a promise of efficiency and accuracy. However as we can easily see technology is also a platform for loadings and belief systems that are far from the ‘rational ‘ approaches that would appear to underpin enlightenment based technological development. The world wide web is a mass of hazy history, religious weirdness, floating identity fraud and conspiracy and fantasy. To conflate astrology — a belief that has no scientific basis although central to the development of astronomy, but which a large minority of people believe to be true to some extent or another and which is massively represented on the web - with the approaches and technologies of modern intelligence gathering and warfare, illuminates the emotional and symbolic loadings that we place science and technology and makes them equivalent, fluid and contingent . For both the techno-modernist and the astrologer the understanding of space promises power, and both astrology and technology promise to reveal to the gaze what is obscured from us. In previous modellings of the universe: for instance in 16th century medicine or for Newton, astrology was seen as an objective truth and scientific tool.

In the fault-lines of the current political conflicts between the west and the east we can also see other systems in conflict, different theological systems are opposed to each other, as well as the more commonly represented clash of cultures and a struggle between the modern and the pre-modern: (a gap in technology.)

Astrology is a system from antiquity that, along with other classical knowlege such as medecine, physics, philosophy, mathematics, geometry etc, was preserved by the Arab world whilst it was erased by the dark ages in Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire. These were passed back into the west through the Arab occupation of Spain and the Crusades and other medieval contacts and helped fuel the Renaissance and from there the modern western world.

It references medieval mindsets and reading of the universe. 'As above so below' etcetra, how, in king Lear of Macbeth the discord on earth is reflected in the heavens.

Astrology directly shaped for instance the policy decisions of Ronald Reagan and there is no reason to believe that the current administration is any less shaped by approaches and concerns to do with systems that may largely defined as supernatural.

The work also hopes to articulate the element of desire that lies in the idea of ‘intelligence’ (and in the dreams of the technological): that it represents a desire for a system to exist by which the random and the un-anticipatible may be narratised and understood, and so prevent the unexpected and the terrifying from taking place. Its function is symbolic as much as actual: an important belief in our construction of a possible world. The same desire is expressed in a belief in the forces of the planets and stars upon people and their lives that is systematised in Astrology.

Richard Grayson

INTELLIGENCE - exhibited at Matts Gallery London, January 2005