Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Coordinate(d) Airspace

The idea of COORDINATES is really fascinating me for our research project on international airports. in the airport history book I’ve read, “Naked Airport”, there is talk about how postmodern architecture of airports attempted to resettle the "older coordinates" that had been disrupted by the post-war decentralized airport structures.

What precisely were the old coordinates? flat Cartesian space? the broad expanses of land and openness Le Corbusier saw as seminal in his 'naked airport' concept, a vision seen from the plane to the port yet aligned in elevation not plan?

The coordinate(d) space of the old was aligned primarily from the view upon land as seen in elevation, but with aircraft and the repositioning of the body into the craft's own air-space, the new view upon the land became aligned from above, as if in plan not elevation. What did this do to cartographic and 2D projections of space, to notions of perspective, to the whole concept of the 3rd dimension as depicted through non-3D measures (i.e. image based representation instead of literal, physical architecture)?

Did the coordinates of visually represented space, as known in the post-renaissance world, become realigned upon a new axis? Is there a new evolution of visual representation--the next step after Brunelleschi's discovery of perspective--underway? Must humans now grapple with a new sense of space as projected from another kind of 'perspective'? Does this perspective also manipulate the convention of the 3rd dimension of depth, and of time that can move within it's limits and bounds? And is this process of experiencing this difference experienced in the dislocation of the "older" coordinates...

I'd say yes. And that in fact, cinema and the visually projected cinematic narrative are in part manifestations of this newly coordinate(d) space. Cinema in particular relocates the human experiencer to position of 'viewer' upon the cinematic landscape. The coordinates of perspectival space become re-projected in motion before the eyes; depth is not only seen in the 2D but read in the image's oneiric immersion. A new space--cinematic spatial coordinates--wrap around the 'viewer', a viewer's perspectival position is relocated into the cinematic space while their body remains sedentary, stable, motionless. Motion of the cinematic order--images of a physically far away world passing by--slide the coordinates of the new across the coordinates of the old; interstices dislocate the body to new planes of perception, position, and place.

AIRSPACE - viewer-ship; dislocation in between the places and times; realigned orientation to Earth-bound perspective; priority of plan where before we saw elevation and section; priority of elevation and section where before we imagined plan; a new coordination of coordinates inside context, place, experience.

Coordinates themselves also function as the limiting figures connecting vectors into shapes, diagrams, maps, and particular spaces. Coordinates are a mapping and form-making tool. Coordinates can be applied to any surface to make it manipulatable. In 3D computer graphics technology, a sphere can be coated in a matrix of points for extrusion, etc. Surfaces simply become transformable into the third dimension with coordinates. The flat image can now exist in the 3rd dimension with coordinate mapping; an act not simply of perception but technological manipulation.

Edges of coordinate space may define the plausible limits to its own spatial existence, and can infer further spaces beyond the visible. The negotiated boundaries of Nations are coordinated to align to regulatory coordinates. Space above the surface of the Earth, extending into the air, is also regulated by coordinate domains. Movement across, between, inside all coordinated space is defined by the whereabouts of the object within the coordinate structure and its position relative to the absolute position of the regulatory coordinates. Airflight is in its very nature subjected to physically coordinate(d) space, as noted by David Pascoe in his introductory “Airspace” musings on regulation air spaces.

The beauty of coordinate(d) airspace is that it is assumed to be Cartesian in all dimensions: the ultimate mobile utopian freedom.

Movement can plausibly transpose things at any level or orientation. “Air”-space prioritizes air’s substance, its imperceptible materiality. We can feel wind in our hair and the smell of a sea breeze, or sense lack of oxygen but in representation air only takes form through the characterizations of its edges and limiting factors. Coordinates become opportunities for defining materiality to the space in-between the matrix’s points. Renaissance Raffaello and Botticelli understood this. Raffaello added corporeality to space and imbued it’s essence; he would emphasize color around the air, began to manipulate the perspectival depth, and characterized movement and light passing through what is empty by touching what is around the emptiness. (See Raffaello’s “Madonna of Foligno”) Botticelli, master of the line, drew each figure in concrete shapes by the out-line, the painting’s spatial divisions coordinated by the line’s positioning. (See Botticelli’s “The Annunciation”) Spaces of air or non materiality were made just as relevant to the eye as the substances of material bodies. Voids were materialized by clarifying the limits to it; coordinating its relations, giving the space—the air—substance.