Remote Sensing Image and Postmodern Art
"Remote Sensing Image and Postmodern Art" deals with the change brought about to our visual perception by the eye of the satellite. Remote sensing refers to technology of obtaining image data of earth surface using aircraft or satellite geared for various purposes such as military, science, assessment of natural resources and business. This essay focuses on a different perspective and vision enabled by remote sensing images. These days, satellites such as Landsat, Spot, Cosmos, Ikonos are used for this purpose. Remote sensing is becoming more and more important in interpreting, communicating and production of images along with ever refined machine and method of analysis in both the area of military and civilian. The presence of satellite fills the whole space above the earth with almighty and omnipresent vision like the panopticon suggested by Jerem y Bentham as an apparatus of modernizing vision. But unlike panopticon, while rendering its presence invisible above 800km above sea level, the satellite does not produce a subject. That is related with the character of the vision of the satellite. Unlike the gaze of a person that responds to someone else's vision, the vision of surveillance intensified in the satellite destroys the subject in a one-directional , non-dialectical communication.
The gaze of satellite photographs fits into the general trait of war in the sense that the body captured in an image is not appropriated in a proper sense but transform and dismember it into a form of data. In satellite photographs the dialectic of mutual recognition and identification through the exchange of gaze does not occur. When the subject of the surveillance is no longer human but machine, the gaze gets a pointedness that watches the object only in order to obtain specific data. The surveillance by vision machine elaborated by Paul Virilio in his book Vision Machine has a significance differentiated from the conventional method of observation.
Recently, following this insight into the perception of vision machine, there emerge artists who use satellite images for their work. Then, what does it mean to locate the image of science and technology within the domain of art? Is it a displacement of the border between art and technology? Or is it an expansion of the domain of art? In 2002 San Paulo Biennale, the Ukranian artist Taras Polataiko exhibited satellite pictures of 11 metropolitan cities of the world such as Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing and so on. This attempt seems to draw our attention to the new perspective of the satellite msion along with surrealistic colors and forms.
On the other hand, if the machine of art, not the machine of war makes use of satellite, it will be from a different context. But if the border between the art and other domain of human activity such as technology were ever broken down, there should be a fissure through which the existing way of art disappears. This means the ultimate disappearance of the existing model of the artist. But in the case of Polataiko, this model is still working, with just the replacement of the spectacle of art with that of technology.
In the space outside art, the satellite has taken the place of an artist, for the satellite is related with the matter of visual sensation of the world in terms of what Virilio has called the "logstics of military perception". In military visual perception is as sensitive an issue as it is in art. According to the former US secretary of defense Perry, "once you can see the target, you can destroy it." In this world, the true postmodern artist is the satellite.