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Solar Empire


The ‘Antipodas’ project is a 15,000 km cable connecting Chile and China, the project is aimed at solving the issue of variability by “importing energy from the opposite side of the globe and building a solar empire so vast that the sun never sets.”1  The interconnector cable initiative animates a dystopian pangaea where desert suns reach arctic winters. The solar empire requires the capturing of the sun. One way to capture the sun is through a subsea grid-connected photovoltaic system. Another is through city planning. Another is through the camera apparatus.


Attempts at photographing the solar eclipse go back to 1842, Jonathan Crary attributes 19th century observations of the eclipse as a phenomenon that led to great advancements in optical instruments and visual capture tools. Scientists and artists alike sought to capture the event to learn more about the celestial world and in the process expanded the conventions of ways of seeing and boundaries of vision.2


“Stand as far east as possible in Manhattan, north of where the crosstown street grid begins, and look west. The next few nights mark an unusual celebration of sunlight, a joint venture of nature, city planners and private development that takes place 19 or so days before and after the summer solstice. Watch the sun, framed by the man-made canyons of the city, as it sets right down the centre line of every east-west street.”3


Instructions to capture the sun from Sam Roberts' article from the New York Times posted in 1987, describing what used to be called ‘Solar Grid day’ but was renamed by Neil Degrasse Tyson: Manhattanhenge. The grid of Manhattan, part of the 1811 commissioners plan was meant to prescribe order to the metropolis, to aid in wayfinding and orientation. According to Foucault, the organisation of space is juridico-political.4


It is worth mentioning that the areas of the city that did not succumb to the grid were areas that were meant to remain out of sight. The meatpacking district, for example, was where food and goods arrived by train, was where cattle was hung and butchered and later where the Queer and BDSM scene thrived, until Giuliani pushed it further underground with homophobic legeslation. Marginalised people who navigated in the darkness found free subjectivity in the liminal off-grid spaces.


When considering the metropolis where most disaster films climax, there is often a scene where a crowd gathers to watch the falling of a landmark or the “touch down” of an extraterrestrial. It is in relation to this type of Manhattan-based annual spectacle—with a stationary audience and fixed environment providing a stage for the event—that Manhattanhenge ought to be situated.” Manhattanhenge simultaneously reinforces the grid and breaks it. While crowds gather at the cross-sections of the street they take up space, peering through their apparatuses, they deviate from the sidewalk, dodging cars and becoming an obstruction, they fight for a view with hopes of capturing the perfect image.


Created: 17 February 2016 by Fred Hsu on en.wikipedia

Manhattanhenge on 2016-07-12 at 42nd St. Tourists blocked an entire section of 42nd Street, including its intersection with Sixth Avenue, to take pictures of the sunset.

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