08 July 2013

A 66th anniversary

Opening up Google today brings up a little game - to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the Roswell UFO incident reporting.
Roswell - on my wall
For almost two years, Cornelia Parker's "Missing: Roswell (New Mexico)" has been hanging on my wall, purchased almost by accident after hearing her talk at the Whitechapel Book Fair. The story of the work is that she "located" places where meteorites had not fallen ... though other things might have happened there. She burned the meteorite misses into the pages of an atlas (carefully chosen) with a bit of  old iron meteorite that she had heated on her stove. (She's also been doing other "meteorite landings" - video and an interview are here.)

The series, "Meteorite Lands in the Middle of Nowhere (The American series)" was made in 2001 and consists of six sites, in an edition of 20 each. The other sites are  Bethlehem, North Carolina; Paris, Texas; Baghdad, Louisiana; ("Hitting"); and "Missing": Waco, Texas; Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (see them here). Below, from the same website, is "Meteorite Lands on Wormwood Scrubs" 2000.
Of these burned-with-a-meteorite works, the V&A's website says:

"One of the devices used by artist Cornelia Parker is to subject familiar everyday objects to extremes of temperature, pressure or force. The resulting transformations retain a residual trace of their original form and seem to invite the viewer to reconsider their own relationship with history and mortality.

"For the suite of map works called ‘Meteorite Lands in the Middle of Nowhere: The American Series’ Parker heated a tiny meteorite and carefully scorched six selected place names in the USA on as many maps. Some of Parker’s meteorites make direct hits, others are near misses, but the associative power of the place names she has chosen is self-evident: Bagdad, Louisiana, Paris, Texas, and Bethlehem, North Carolina, are all hits; Roswell, New Mexico, Waco, Texas, and Truth or Consequences, also New Mexico, are all misses.

"In another series Parker has meteorites landing on sites in London. The work plays with the almost obsessive place meteorites now have in the popular imagination, given their potential capacity to completely annihilate the earth. Parker suggests that by displacing fear onto this external threat, meteors distract humanity from the dangers it poses to itself."

Let's save the plangency of meteorites for another time, and find out what happened - or didn't - in Roswell 66 years ago. "Since the late 1970s," says wikipedia, "the Roswell incident has been the subject of much controversy, and conspiracy theories have arisen about the event."

In 1947,  an airborne object crashed on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. The US government attributes the crash to a US military surveillance balloon, but the most famous explanation of what occurred is that the object was a spacecraft containing extraterrestrial life.

About 30 years later, speculation was rife in UFO circles, and the National Enquirer got involved. In 1989 a mortician claimed that alien autopsies were carried out at Roswell air force base. The air force released two reports in the mid-90s - to quote wikipedia:

"The first concluded that the reported recovered material in 1947 was likely debris from Project Mogul. The second report, concluded reports of recovered alien bodies were likely a combination of innocently transformed memories of military accidents involving injured or killed personnel, innocently transformed memories of the recovery of anthropomorphic dummies in military programs like Operation High Dive conducted in the 1950s, and hoaxes perpetrated by various witnesses and UFO proponents. The psychological effects of time compression and confusion about when events occurred explained the discrepancy with the years in question. These reports were dismissed by UFO proponents as being either disinformation or simply implausible. But at the same time, several high-profile UFO researchers discounted the possibility that the incident had anything to do with aliens."

So that white frame hanging quietly on my wall holds more than an atlas with a burn mark - it speaks of "innocent transformation of memories ... and the psychological effects of time compression" as well as "displacing fear onto an external threat, thus distracting humanity for the threat it poses to itself."

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