Each one of the objects portrayed, built to explore the outskirts of our knowledge, contains in itself the sum total of what humankind learned until the moment the object was constructed. In a simple glove is condensed the knowledge of the intimate structure of matter, the four basic interactions at work in Nature and the local structure of the Universe. However, [the purpose of this] simple glove…is to lead us towards the unknown. The humans wearing them perform definite steps to clear a few more inches out of the path of knowledge and lead us further in the quest for infinity.
—Joao Seixas, member of the CMS collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider. From the afterword to The Rehearsal of Space
Intellectually, The Rehearsal of Space packs a punch. As one can sense from the book's full title, The Rehearsal of Space and the Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite, a lot of thinking went into making this project. In the introduction alone we find references to: a Michel Foucault lecture, the work of conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp, a novel by the surrealist author Raymond Roussel and Pink Floyd's album The Dark Side of the Moon. Dense as this seems, the text is an enjoyable read, cramming in enough references and material to fill out a reading list for months.
But what about the pictures? For all the richness of the ideas behind the work, the images themselves feel cold, sterile, and objective. Perhaps this is the intention of the photographer—but the photographs feel lacking in the sense of wonder that we feel so strongly after reading Seixas describe a simple glove as a symbol of humanity's "quest for infinity."
It is hard not to compare Martins' work with another, much more playful series previously featured on LensCulture: Space Project by Vincent Fourier.
Mars Desert Research Station #4, San Rafael Swell, Utah, USA, 2008 © Vincent Fournier
Whereas Fourier talks about the dream-like nature of space, he also shows it to us. He includes human figures, dazzling landscapes, and even the similar gloves that Martins places on the cover of his book. Martins' pictures only come alive after the accompanying texts have been pored over, while Fournier is able to take us into the infinite space of our imaginations on the basis of his pictures alone.
In a great photobook, the images have the power to inspire which the supplementary texts then push even further. In Edgar Martins' latest offering, the hierarchy feels reversed: while the book's texts draw our minds towards "poetic impossibility," the images seem to leave us oddly grounded back on Earth.
The Rehearsal of Space and the Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite
Publisher: La Fábrica
Hardcover: 184 pages