PROJECT: Thermal City
…it is certain that a beam of heat is the essence of the matter. Heat, and invisible, instead of visible, light. Whatever is combustible flashes into flame at its touch, lead runs like water, it softens iron, cracks and melts glass, and when it falls upon water…explodes into steam.
—H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds, 1898, 13
Volatile and agitated, infrared images express acts of heat, the violence of sensation. Eyes scan, unable to rest comfortably on thermal surfaces. The saturated, flattened image generated by the infrared camera’s monocular vision arouses agitation and discomfort; we are simultaneously compelled to look and look away. Seeing and thinking infrared destabilizes optical vision even as we ocularcentric beings feel compelled to search for representational forms in IR images. We push forward moving beyond the optical and representational cliché, and a thermal tactility emerges, our eyes more than our skin are thermally stained, chromatically burned. With scientific instrument as prosthesis our more-than-human bodies sense strange visions, a world of undulating heat surfaces, as the nonvisible (heat) is rendered visible (IR image). Haunted by the prescience of H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel, War of the Worlds, we move in a futuristic space between science and fiction, a thermal imaginary, a way of thinking-sensing with the thermal imperatives. Encounters with infrared images attune bodies to thermal intensities. Seeing infrared is an experience/experiment in sensing below the limits of human perception and beyond human bodies. Infrared imagery and imagination serve as aesthetic intervention, a vital micropolitical act in apprehending other forms and configurations of matter and extending sensitivity and an ethics of care to all bodies.
This project is a collaboration with Kevin McHugh, Ph.D. and Jennifer Kitson, Ph.D. candidate, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and photographer Jason Roehner, Herberger Institute For Design and the Arts