Chris Basmajian / Work /
The Stars Down to Earth
In the essay “The Stars Down to Earth”, Theodor Adorno analyzed the content and devices of the Los Angeles Times’ astrology column from a period of several months in 1952 and 1953. Adorno described how the column played upon the narcissistic tendencies of its readers, cultivating their psychological dependence on its advice and predictions while subconsciously encouraging its readers’ conformity to the social behaviors most conducive to mainstream economic productivity.
This piece has two projections, facing back to back. In front of each projection, facing the viewer, are a video camera and a proximity sensor. As the viewer approaches the projection, the image transitions through several layers of effects, each incorporating text in some way. The image also responds to the viewer by “rewinding” the text whenever the viewer moves. The activity of a viewer in front of one screen sometimes triggers actions on the other screen, disrupting the viewer’s identification with the image and creating an atmosphere of confused contingency.
The text on the first screen is the text of the Adorno essay. The text on the second screen is from the daily horoscope RSS feed on Astrology.com. Each day that the installation is displayed, it downloads the current daily horoscope and appends it to the saved horoscope text. This allows the viewer to compare the essay’s excerpted mid-Twentieth century horoscopes to present day horoscopes, and consider how certain devices and techniques are still in use. This comparison highlights the relevance of Adorno’s critique while placing it in the context of contemporary online media.
Proximity sensor and electronics