Columnist: Sanza Bulaya Sanza's Beyonder Story
Columnist: Stéphane Ferrero Stéphane's Beyonder Story
April 12th, 1961 – Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. He traveled aboard the Soviet spacecraft Vostok I to an altitude of 187 miles above the earth and completed a single orbit in a flight lasting 108 minutes. The spectacular Russian success intensified the already ongoing Space Race between the Russians and Americans. This was followed in 1962 by President Kennedy’s open call to land an American on the moon before the decade’s end.
SB: Do you believe in aliens?
SF: You mean, life originated from another planet? It’s difficult to have a clear answer to that simple question because it’s something more complex than what it looks like….
I watched a documentary the other day and what I have understood is: in order to find aliens in other planets, we definitely need to explore the space. So, from this point of view, we are addressing a complex and critical issue, which is transportation. How do we travel in the space?
SB: Space transportation system has been under study & research over the past decades. All the most brilliant brains on the Earth: scientists and engineers from the top space agencies around the world are working on it. I heard that space race is no longer a battle between Americans and Russians. Today Europeans and Chinese have also joined the race…. Eventually, it is likely to boost research and creativity to further improve the space transportation related technology.
SF: Eventually…. The main point here is to take the immensity of the space into consideration. I mean, as human being, we are talking about infinity in terms of time and space. In other words, even if there are some forms of life somewhere far away from Earth, currently we still don’t have the technology to get there. In terms of space exploring, distance is the key. Space-wise, it’s too challenging to complete the space journey to explore new areas beyond our Solar System and report findings like the great explorers did on Earth…. The time it takes for us to go beyond our Solar System and return to Earth is way beyond the human life span.
SB: Of course, there are some technical limitations but we can’t stop human nature: curiosity and challenging limits are part of our DNA. For example, knowledge about the Universe has always been an enigma for mankind. Spirituality, religions, philosophy, culture, and education have been deeply influenced by our relationship to understand the Universe. Take astrology for example, how many people have asked you about your astrological sign? Even more interesting, under the concept of Progress, the amount of money spent and invested to comprehend our Universe has been huge. Let’s be clear, it’s not a secret for anyone that during the Cold War, Space Race was an instrumental challenge to establish a new world order, more specifically between the West versus the East, over the control of the so-called Third World….
SF: That’s true, at some point I can only see two benefits from this massive investment into Space Race. First, by accumulating a wealth of knowledge of our planet and the Solar System, we could develop our evolution model in a scientific way and see our environment from the aspect of a species living on Earth. Second, Space Race has allowed us to challenge technology and technics to boost progress. Thanks to space research, many applications, objects, and technologies that were dedicated to exploring and surviving in the space have become true innovations that have transformed and shaped our way of living in a positive way.
SB: Are you sure about that? Where is the positivity? Progress is positive when it is accessible to the mass and when it brings added value to a large number of people.
SF: Ok I feel you. Let’s talk about “Barry Lyndon” my friend….
“Barry Lyndon” is a movie released in 1975 directed by Stanley Kubrick. The story takes place during the 18th century, in the land that is England today. At that time, as you can easily imagine, electricity power was not available yet. So what did people do to carry on their activities when there was no more daylight? They simply used candles. Indeed, candles could bring sufficient light to see at night when you are home…. So back to “Barry Lyndon” movie, it has been very interesting to observe that the director Stanley Kubrick really wanted to re-create the same lighting environment for that movie. So, as you can figure out, they used candles on the film-set without any artificial light such as spotlight.
SB: Ok… and what’s your point?
SF: The whole point is, when you use such kind of lighting setting, for a visual professional you definitely need to capture as much light as you can in order to produce an image, whatever it is a photograph or a video. In Kubrick’s case, by using video process, he needed to have some equipment that could allow him to film in very low light conditions to visually transcript the 18th century lifestyle with candles. In order to do so, he used a special lens, and this is where technology played a pivotal role. In fact, Kubrick used NASA f0.7 lens, originally commissioned for the NASA lunar dark side shooting project. Now you got my point? This is a fascinating example of the critical influence of progress and technology derived from space research that was beneficial to cinema. And beyond the film industry, these new technologies have become random applications used in our daily life today. Since 1975, which is the release year of “Barry Lyndon” movie, more technologies and applications have been used out of their initial scope of Space Race.
SB: Point well taken. Speaking of Stanley Kubrick, I heard here and there that he was involved in a project in relation to Apollo Moon landing mission, which was the Kennedy’s ambition to land an American on the moon before the decade’s end. Some says that Kubrick was asked to produce and direct some footage of American astronaut moon landing as a back-up plan, in case the official mission failed. Obviously, there was a clear desire to use cinema artistic technics to forge perception of Space Race…. As you said, Progress and technology can perform reality transformation and this is the dark side of all of it. When Art serves propaganda, I guess we can’t talk about positivity in Progress. Performing arts is always a question of self-positioning but it should be sincere and not driven by geopolitical aesthetics.
SF: As far as performing arts in Taiwan is concerned, in the history of film technology, the “Pi” effect used by the Taiwanese born American movie director, Ang Lee, has boosted the Taiwan’s movie industry.
SB: Oh really? How? Please elaborate because I only heard that the American visual effects company “Rhythm & Hues” that cooperated with Ang Lee for “Pi” went bankrupt in 2013. …
SF: So sad… But the movie “Life of Pi” (2012) also served to showcase best-in-class visual effects by using a huge water tank to shoot the scenes of the protagonist “Pi” stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. The technology used was developed in Taichung City in central Taiwan, crafted by the Taiwanese-based company Babylon Pool Systems Co. The Taiwanese company engineered waves to simulate ocean waves for the film’s lifeboat scenes, and to mimic various weather conditions. They are still in good shape business-wise and this is something positive!
SF: Hmmm… A Taiwanese aesthetics legacy in the history of film technology: brilliant! Mr. Kubrick would have loved it!