The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

April 6, 2018

Untoward, Unruly, and Peculiar Galaxies

From: An Isophotometric and Photographic Atlas of Peculiar
Galaxies,Bruce Carlton Schanberg, University of Chicago Press,
The American Astronomical Society, The Astrophysical Journal,
Supplement Series, Number 230, Vol. 26, Pp. 115-230, Nov. 1973

The 91 examples can be correlated with their NGC number; for
example, #3, Atlas # 3553 #2, p. 129, is correlated with NGC
A0826 (galaxies6.jpg). The 1973 images are superceded with
updated online imaging of course.

For the foreseeable future, images will always be updated,
closer to an unnerving truth - that of an incomprehensible
universe or multiverse, unbelievable greater in extent than we
can comprehend or directly explore; the universe is not another
Mars or Oort cloud.

What fascinates me is the complexity of the techniques used in
1973 as well as the rough scan-line contouring; the images 'look
like' body contusions and represent, for me, the kind of mapping
I've described as tending towards blankspace - filling in the
lines ("filling out the form"), suturing the sparse information
- by inference drawing out structure. But then there's also the
question of the supplement itself, the reproductions, the finely
surfaced pages, the choice of printing technologies, the grey
values mapping...

And on the other and absent hand (the signified here is never at
hand), the issue of the inconceivable distances represented by
these choices, distances that tend towards the dreams of warp-
speed and wormholes, easy ways to evade the obdurate space-time
magnitude of the universe - impossible to do, possible to
conceive of only by the simulacrum of inference, as hearth or
home or chora. To conceive of such is to conceive of earth
deterred, a form of differance. And these cinematic animations
of travel among the stars and galaxies? fabrications, chimera
implying illusory and unachievable mastery beyond the one planet
(and its immediate neighbors) we're already leaving in ruins. In
the meantime we have the 'truth' of these already ancient photo-
graphs, revealing the distance between image and object and the
distance between the page's referent, our hubris, the everything
else nowhere near.


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