tell a star

“They put our rubies up there, they put our diamonds up there. They put our money up there but I didn’t see our history.” --Ahib Ail, Engineer/Historian, Earth/Pluto, 1962/3962[1] [2]

In 1962, the first American satellite, Telstar, was launched into outerspace. In 3962, all of the Earth’s cities were connected to cities on Mars and Pluto. This quote is written simultaneously in the past and future.

Ahib Ail’s quote inquires about the hopes and ideals invested in technology. In the wake of proxy wars, the privatized investment of the satellite was created in order to impress the superiority of Western American capitalism and as a haven for future global safety. This is the case for Telstar, a showcase for the 1960s space race. [2] [3] [4] In a world where nothing is permanent, multiplicity is another name for information, excess is information’s nom de plume; a pseudonym for both is ‘network culture.’ [5] [6] In the 3-channel video installation, TELL A STAR, an alternative universe is presented where Mars, Pluto and the Earth's cities have been connected. [7] Sourced from AT&T Corporate Archives in San Antonio, archival photos of press release images of Telstar taken in the 60s are reenacted throughout these videos in different guises and hairstyles. Unlike the utopian Populuxe aesthetic that promise a modern look to “keep up” with the future, the bare-bones prop-like aesthetic of TELL A STAR’s construction materials: aluminum foil, ribbon and tape measure, infer that the future is “now.”[8] The songs sampled are The Tornados Telstar, Sun Ra’s Satellites are Spinning and H1BA’s TELESTAR. In the year 3692, the speaker in TELL A STAR announces that the satellite’s orbit will not be visible from Earth but it will be seen from stations on Pluto and Mars station. In the year 1962, Telstar sent its first national transmission from the Andover Earth Station to Holmdel, New Jersey.[9] This connected America to itself forming a linear closed loop, TELL A STAR creates a multilinear electric hula hoop. In the alternative reality of 3962, regions are connected without being conquered and cities are interlinked without being dominated.

3 CHANNEL OVER ALL?

TELL A STAR’s HD TV’s were centered on three walls. They are placed equidistant from each other to require the viewer to labor to see all of the screens, this placement is done to contrast the present digital visual economy of easy access. The viewer has to walk back and forth from screen to screen in order to see all of the three videos. Even if a viewer occupied the center of the space, they were unable to view all of the three screens simultaneously.

A PRIVILEGED UTILITY, OK

The venture of the first American satellite in 1962 was the first successful private investment.[10] This paved the way for public infrastructure of relaying information across the world being owned and operated by corporate entities and not the public. The privatization of the first satellite laid the foundation for contemporary modalities of privatization such as move to eliminate net neutrality.[11] The satellite was never made with public use in mind, it was made for profit, paying consumers have always been at its center; it is not a public utility but a privileged utility. TELL A STAR practices a hard, slippery reality of pushing towards equity through the fiction of equality. Through story-telling, it shifts away from a hierarchic Earth-centric, Milk Way-centric narrative.

As identities are not fixed constellations, but constantly mobile, ever fluid, like the land, the stars, the sea, the space - they can never be owned by a sole entity. There are many stories not told, TELL A STAR is one of them.



[1.] This quote is written by Ahib Ail. “Ahib Ail” is an anagram of my name, Hiba Ali. “Ahib Ail” simultaneously wrote this quote in the year, 1962 and 3962.

[2]. Toor, Saadia. The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan. Pluto, 2011.

[3]. Curtis, Adam, director. Love and Power: The Influence of Ayn Rand-All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. BBC, 2011.

[4]. Allen, Michael. Live from the Moon: Film, Television and the Space Race. I.B. Tauris, 2009.

[5]. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Verso, 1991

[6]. Terranova, Tiziana. Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age. Pluto Press, 2004.

[7].Hiba Ali, 3-channel installation, TELL A STAR, 3 HD TVs, speaker, cables, router and extension cords, 00:05:30, 2017.

[8].In addition, the hunger for the “new” and “future” material including that of iron, coal and gold, have historically created war, pollution and increased global warming. Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard Univ. Press, 2013.

[9]. EEE Maine Section. “Milestones:First Transatlantic Transmission of a Television Signal via Satellite, 1962.” Milestones:First Transatlantic Transmission of a Television Signal via Satellite, 1962 - Engineering and Technology History Wiki, ETHW, 8 Feb. 2016. ethw.org/Milestones:First_Transatlantic_Transmission_of_a_Television_Signal_via_Satellite,_1962.

[10]. BS, SC. “PRELUDE TO SATELLITE LEGISLATION,” Public Relations Department American Telephone and Telegraphy, March 6th, 1962.

[11]. Glaser, April. “How to Save Net Neutrality Before It’s Destroyed.” Slate Magazine, 22 Nov. 2017, www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2017/11 /how_to_save_net_neutrality_before_it_s_destroyed.html.

Self published. Video project is here.