Above Below, 2020
AI-generated textile, cotton, training: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite images taken from High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE)
60 x 80 inches
52 x 37 inches
photos: Jenalee Harmon
Above Below is a series of textiles using computer code to project and reshape satellite images of ice from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft orbiting Mars, from a neural network based on Earth. Pointing to Mars provides a different perspective and scale for imaging terrains. It operates between signifiers of planetary change, BLUE and RED—the desertification of the Blue Planet and colonizing the Red Planet. BLUE and RED both formed by millions of years of water and climate, now captured from above and below.
Machines view Mars first as an abstraction, transforming numerical data and imaging from telescopes and satellites into blown up worlds, then concrete places. Satellite imagery is inherently political from its use on Earth, recognized by machines as a pixel grid of numeric intensity values that inform classification and speculation on physical properties and processes. Each image depends on the number of pixels—each fixed with complexity per pixel, with the pixel being the smallest controllable physical point represented on a screen.
The exchange between imaging and the loom untangle contemporary understandings of mapping by materializing computation. Colonialism is rooted in the planetary imagination which fails to account for histories of structural racism based on geologic relations and the violent dispossession of indigenous lands. This resulted in legacies of destructive cartography and mapping now used in machine vision in space. Problems arise when imagining and understanding these places through posthuman computational tools. The construction and meaning of place through technology needs constant addressing to dismantle terrestrial entanglements spread through the galaxy—the geography of space is based on imperialist knowledge production used against black and brown bodies. Pointing outward begins with pointing to ourselves, and to computations of the past and future. Power and construction reside less at the center and more at the edges of geospatial relations. The notion of up or down—above or below—dissolves in space, following its reversal. Both sides of the AI-generated Jacquard textile mirror a technological deconstruction coming from and being on Earth. Pixels and boundaries, real and virtual, are distorted and broken.