History of Disaster with Marvels, A

by Stones, Andrew

Video 1992

Dazzling Image - C4
Arts Council of England/Great Britain
Bijou Cinema, London, England

'The tape begins by treating the screen as flat document, or animated text. Use of mythologised narrative, graphics from alchemical texts, and quotations, establishes the split between religious and rationalist world-views which heralds modern science. A History of Disaster... attempts to place the idea of wonderment - a spur to human inquiry - into a context related equally to fantasies of material control, and apocalyptic scenarios beyond human control. The tape quotes Francis Bacon (1561-1626), a central figure in science's move to rational, empirical method, and Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, which developed the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The 'disasters' referred to in the title of the tape, and the epiphany of the final scene, are of an order suggestive of human frailty and the ultimate failure of the materialist vision. They reach the viewer as reports related by telephone, radio or word of mouth, in formalised domestic settings which, in the television context for which the tape was made, reflect the viewer's position.' - Andrew Stones


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