Vivian Charlesworth | Auguries
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Throughout history, sightings of events in the upper atmosphere were thought to be omens of things to come. Auguries investigates four landscapes that experienced mysterious light or celestial activity, and the personal narratives that unraveled in these places.
Auguries is an immersive space in which the viewer can interact with four mahogany “kinetoscopes” [1] that digitally display a unique video of one of the landscapes. The “kinetoscopes” were made by hand, and have 3D modeled and CNC’ed brass binoculars for the viewer to look through. Hanging at one end of the space, is a star chart that references themes present in the videos. If the viewer experiences each video in totality, they will be able to read the chart and understand the mythology of the space. Instead of using directions or astrological figures around the chart’s outer ring, the star chart instead maps natural and psychic forces such as telepathy and gravity. By merging the explained with the unexplained, Auguries constructs its own definition of truth.
Throughout the space, the sound of a submarine emanates, picking up signals of airplanes, wind chimes and more. Hand-painted stars decorate the walls and are invisible until the viewer’s eyes adjust to the light. In all aspects of this project, the viewer inhabits a seat of observation and must excavate sounds, navigate faraway landscapes through binoculars, and decipher the star chart in order to find their own understanding of the narrative.
The videos depict the landscapes of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory [2], the Colorado Sand Dunes, The Lick Observatory, and the coast of New England. By doing site visits and engaging with different types of archives, the four resulting films investigate the “omens” that occurred in each landscape. Each video is intercut with poetic text written during the site visits [3]. Santa Susana was the location of various rocket engine tests, and because of its classified status in the 1950’s, some residents of the area were convinced that the bright lights that flashed across the sky over the mountain above them were aliens descending on California. The Lick Observatory was the home of the “comet-coincidence” of 1917; astronomers accidentally discovered two comets from the results of coordinates garbled in a telegraph communication. The Colorado Sand Dunes is the home of the Crestone Crater, which was the result of a meteorite, or comet, that collided with earth in 1941. Lastly, the New England coastline was the site of a comet in 1819, which was said to have predicted the Whaleship Essex disaster [4].

[1] Early motion picture device developed by Thomas Edison and William Dickson.
[2] Former research facility located North of Los Angeles that was used to develop and test technologies such as nuclear reactors, liquid rocket engines and the SNAP-10A, a nuclear reactor launched into space. Additionally, the land is home to a sacred Native American painted cave that some believe to be an observatory. For 1500 years, this site has been home to people who were literally reaching for the stars.

[3] This text was also compiled into a collection of short stories entitled The Transformation of Things
[4] The Whaleship Essex (whose provenance was Nantucket) was attacked by a Sperm Whale and subsequently sunk. The sailors evacuated to lifeboats and were lost at sea for approximately 90 days during which time they had to resort to cannibalism.

Site Specific Installation, 2015

Mahogany, Brass, Embroidery on Canvas, 3D Printing, Raspberry Pi, Programming, Video, Audio


Some video footage from the film "Conduits" was filmed as part of a research project by Vivian Charlesworth and Alyson Ogasian