M17 Omega Nebula ≈ 52,035.50 × 10ˆ15 m
In the words of the late Charles Eames, an all-time favourite aphorism of mine: ‘Eventually, everything connects.’ Four years ago, I was commissioned to design the brand for the MindWinder retail chain, whose identity was inspired by the Fibonacci spiral as manifested in one of my (and my client’s) favourite books from the Phaidon publishing house. Heaven & Earth, an impeccably packaged collection of images set to astounding distances and proximities of scale, demonstrates the beauty of nature unobservable by the naked eye. A scientific visual study on the infinite yet inherently related patterns of various topographies found in the realms of astronomy (macro) and biology (micro), its resemblance to the 1977 short film Powers of Ten is undeniable. Written and directed by the renowned 20th Century American design duo Charles and Ray Eames (of the iconic 1956 Eames 670 Lounge Chair), the nine-minute documentary portrays ‘the relative size of things in the universe’, namely through the addition of zeros in orders of magnitude ranging from 10ˆ-16 to 10ˆ24 metres. Opening scene overlooking the Chicago lake-front with narrative voiceover by Philip Morrison (former Professor of Physics Emeritus at MIT), it’s classified by the US Library of Congress’ National Film Registry as ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’. Like Heaven & Earth, it too is a ‘modern’ adaptation of another book, the 1957 Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps by Dutch educator Kees Boeke, and has since been the inspiration behind a revised edition.
Obviously rather popular in theme as an item for remake and adaptation, the video below for Gas’ digitally re-mastered track ‘Microscopic’ aptly utilizes footage from Powers of Ten in real time. Not to be confused with the Gas moniker of Wolfgang Voigt, it is the third feature on electronic musician Mat Jarvis‘ classic ambient album Gas 0095, whose rare 1995 edition today retails for 460 dollars on eBay. Originally released on the twice defunct Em:t Records (a T:me Recording off-shoot), it’s been made available once more on Jarvis’ new Microscopics label. Em:t, a Nottingham-based enterprise prone to bankruptcy despite its cult status, helped to pioneer experimental electronica back in the 90s, whilst being rather known for its outstanding cover art as designed by Ian Anderson’s The Designers Republic (the Warhol/Hirst equivalent in the graphic design world — more on tDR soon!). Now that Jarvis has offered his seminal ambient soundscapes at 32bit/96khz with an impressive 32db dynamic range, those unable to afford Gas 0095 in vintage format have the opportunity to appreciate this rather awesome collection of a dozen outerspace-inspired works, beautifully crafted in what can be described as a dream-inducing fusion of Hexstatic and Monolake, with atmospheric references similar to those of programmer/musician Synth.nl. Hopefully much to look forward to from the Gas HQ, I’ll definitely be keeping tabs on Microscopics for further exciting releases in the pipeline…
Sarah Badr © MMVIII
See also: Eames Office
The Films of Charles & Ray Eames
3 thoughts on “Ambient space”