This week’s reading is an article “In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective” by Hito Steyerl which, at the first glance, did not seem the most understandable. From the first read, it left me confused because the text is in some ways metaphoric and it can be understood both literally and interpreted.
In the text Hito Steyerl talks about the meaning of two binary oppositions such as the horizon and verticality. It is explained that our traditional sense of orientation has always been focused on one line which is the horizon line thus it has been a vital element for communication and understanding from a long time ago. Horizon suggests stability in an unstable situation. It acts as the light at the end of the tunnel because, back in the days, it was used for guiding and orientating in general. Taken as an example, Arabs and their technique of “sighting”/“shooting” the object and sailors using quadrant, astrolabe and sextant to guide them while on a ship.
The text explains how people’s orientation in space and understanding of space and time in general changed in time with modernity. It is not a secret that prompted by new technologies, our sense of orientation has changed drastically. Thanks to smart inventions and constant improvements, we see the world differently. We have the power to view the world from God’s perspective (as the author states, we have a “God’s eye”). This is all because of inventions such as GPS, drones, Google Maps, Google Earth, etc. which allow us appear in places without physically being there. We are at the point where we are not dependent on the linear perception anymore. The horizon does not necessarily exist because if we describe the horizon as a dividing line between earth and the sky, in a vertical perspective the horizon disappears.
In addition, the quick advancement of technology gives us the opportunity to see the world from different perspectives that would have been seen as impossible centuries ago. Taking 3D movies as an example. Thanks to multiple special effects, the viewer is no longer restricted by traditional understanding of space and time and can see different perspectives of reality which are not linear.
Hito Steyerl explains that when in a free fall, a person’s “sense of balance is disrupted”, the horizon either disappears, multiplies or shatters. There is nothing to feel besides the feeling of inversion when “people can sense themselves as being things” and vice versa. Therefore, the development of modernity puts us in a “free fall” where we don’t have to be attached to one horizon and one time/space and we are allowed to experiment.
*Steyerl, H. (2012) The Wretched Of The Screen. 1st edn. Berlin: Sternberg P.