Chris Basmajian / Work /

Interactive video (custom software, computer, display, video camera, proximity sensor, mirror box, photograph of the surface of Mars taken by the NASA rover Opportunity)

The term "retrograde" has various implications regarding the study of the celestial bodies. As the position of Earth changes in relation to the other planets in the solar system, the planets sometimes appear us to stop and then move backwards across the night sky. To account for this motion in geo-centric astronomy, it was assumed that planets moved in odd looping orbits, as if they were orbiting invisible points in space while also orbiting earth. It wasn't until astronomers realized that the earth wasn't the center of the universe that the illusion of retrograde motion was accurately explained.

In astrology, a planet in retrograde designates a weakness or lack of a quality normally associated with that planet. During retrograde cycles, astrologers often recommend behaviors and attitudes to compensate for deficiencies in their readers’ own pasts, in an effort to turn potentially negative experiences into positive, constructive ones.

In this piece, a screen displays an image taken by a NASA rover looking back at its own tracks on the surface of Mars. Over laying this image is a negative space defined by the astrological symbol for retrograde (Rx). Within this space are starry images tracking the motion of the viewer. These motion images are captured in a short loop that plays continuously backwards and forwards. As the viewer approaches the screen, the Rx symbol is inverted in varying degrees, so that when the viewer is closest to the screen, the symbol is inverted completely. Adjacent perpendicular mirrors reflect and reverse the image to the right and left so that it can be read normally. Thus the viewer reads the image my moving backwards and forwards in front of the piece, as well as looking side to side, reflecting the content of the imagery.