Simultaneity is Not an Invariable Concept
14 Collodion wetplate photographs (ambrotypes).
8 x 10 inches glass plates.
The glass photographic plates present different viewpoints of various observation instruments arranged in space at the time when British Astronomer Eddington, on May 29th 1919, observed the total eclipse from a cocoa plantation in Príncipe Island (then a Portuguese colony) – an event which would “experimentally” proof Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. In fact, they are digital reconstructions of the coloniser’s lodgings, the owner of the cocoa plantation, that have taken a physical dimension of an image created by contemporary technological tools, but using photographic techniques from the early twentieth century (based on extensive research on the observation instruments used and how they could be arranged in space). Their verisimilitude could only be questioned by the impossibility of having these pictures simultaneously taken from 14 different points, at a moment of almost total darkness, using the technology available in 1919. This obsession with the photographic reconstitution of a space as an experience is a way of recognizing an irremediable void in historical accounts. Both the film “Action at a Distance” and the photographic plates, rather than creating an image of what could have been, constitute an attempt to represent the gap for which there are no possible images: a gap between the situated space/time versus the enabling political frameworks and subsequent accounts of the expedition. An abstraction derived from hegemonic Western historical narratives.
The series Simultaneity is not an invariable concept represent the unachievable site for the “total enlightenment of the eclipse”: paradoxically, a dead zone of obscurity, a standstill for all ontological and anthropological queries remaining to be grasped in the wake of the 1919 expedition. Notwithstanding, the absence of human presence in those desolate photographs is as revealing of the lack of data about the expedition in anthropological regards as it is suggestive of a muted sense of obliviousness towards the immediate surroundings that ultimately enabled such observation on material grounds. As phantasmagorias of an unattainable past, these images conjure simultaneous perspectives over the stillness of an impenetrable moment in history: the time-lapse of a life-changing eclipse —if not for the inhabitants of Principe Island, for the purposes of a modern world; of science and scientists alike.