PYGOSCELIS ADELIAE IS COMMONLY KNOWN as the Adélie penguin, after the wife of French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville, the man who first documented them in 1840. Though they are not especially uncommon, scientists have been concerned that their Antarctic population has been on a steady decline for the last 40 years. Now, a new study conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has revealed a previously unknown “supercolony” of more than 1.5 million Adélies living in the Danger Islands, a remote archipelago on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The idea behind Jakub RóZalski’s 1920+ series of digital paintings sounds at first like a gimmick, the kind of high-concept pitch Michael Bay might bring to a Hollywood studio: Giant steam-driven mechs! Flying battleships! Big weird war machines stalking the fields and forests of 1920s Europe!
Rózalski’s paintings certainly have all that. At times they deliver the thrill of scale and strangeness that the Transformers movies strive for—huge human-shaped assemblages of iron and armament towering over soldiers and peasants like ancient gods or giants sprung from the whispers of myth.
But there’s something deeper, more intriguing, going on. The scenes have a quietness to them that’s not merely the absence of an audio track. Though the specter of war imbues all the 1920+ paintings, Rózalski rarely depicts combat itself. Instead, a mothballed mech stands beside a veteran’s cottage, one massive arm now serving to support a clothesline. A spidery gun platform strides by the edge of a wood—the only witnesses a family of curious deer. Shepherds watch as a trio of walking tanks moves past their hillside, while their sheep graze on unconcerned.
Even in scenes of ongoing or impending battle, the viewpoint is outside the action, usually from the perspective of women working in the fields or a lone villager dumbstruck, perhaps, by the spectacle of the great machines. From that viewpoint, war is a natural disaster blowing through the lives of everyday people ignorant of the forces driving the conflict. The lucky ones go about their work while forces of destruction roll by in the distance; the unlucky see their villages trampled into the mud by marching mechs.
Hell may be the most interesting part of Dante’s famous poem, but its physical existence has always been a topic of debate among philosophers and theologians. If either space or time is finite—a distinct possibility in our current theories of cosmology—how can there be room for a potentially infinite number of sinners for eternity? In what he admits is a speculative proposal, University of Edinburgh philosopher Alasdair Richmond suggests that a hell large enough for an infinite number of the damned could be contained within the boundaries of a finite space, and could provide infinitely-long punishment, even if time itself is finite—but only with the help of time travel. The quite literally devilish trick is a kind of time loop, but not an exact loop. (That would mean that the damned merely suffer through the same experience over and over, without any awareness of the eternal nature of their plight—which is not suffering enough for the traditional idea of Hell.) If the loop shifts and the gap shrinks just the tiniest bit each time around, you end up with an ever-tightening time spiral. You can fit an infinite number of spirals in a tiny amount of space the same way an infinite number of points lie between any two other points on a line. This hell, which Richmond calls “Hilbert’s Inferno” (for pioneering mathematician David Hilbert), might deliver truly eternal torment to an infinite population of sufferers, while the non-suffering and temporally finite universe moves steadily onward, toward its own non-judgmental doom.
If your existence is only shaped by archaic symbolism, then that’s how your existence will be. Stuffy. Stuck in the past. (I’m not writing off millennia of experience, I’m just saying things need freshening up.)
That said, imagery is obviously the great tool of these waters, but I’ll make the argument that in this instance, they should be freed from the past and allowed to breathe. This means trusting your intuition in dynamic, novel ways while using/creating them – something that occurs easily when making a film.
Besides, remaining actively aware in the present, a kind of ‘now elan’ is paramount when attempting to change the conditions of one’s future experience.
One of the techniques I’ve used with success is a kind of ‘living sigil’ technique that utilizes filmed imagery instead of the traditional static sigil.
My reasoning follows: In dreams, the unconscious uses this very type of non-static imagery to convey messages and meaning. Rarely do we have a dream where a static symbol is presented – instead, we experience juxtapositions of scenery, scenarios involving others and overarching/underlying themes illustrated uncannily by the mysterious well from which all images spring.