March 24, 2014

Aboard Malaysia Air Flight 370

Pursuing a simple yet clever idea, NYT photographer Rahman Roslan actually takes us aboard Malaysia Flight 370. If up to now, you only imagined the fated plane in your minds eye as a blip on a radar screen or even a murky fragment on a sea bottom somewhere, we’re now actually, incredibly on board.

No, it’s not the zombie flight, however, but an identical flight photographed since the mishap. (To be completely accurate, Malaysia Air has since changed the flight number to 318.) But the carbon copy is emotionally fascinating and bizarre too, as if placing us right on the ghost flight.

And what about the how? I’m sure others have a much better grasp on the theory, be it cognitive and psychological, or perceptual and philosophical. I imagine what makes this work has something to do with “context dependency.” As best I understand it, that concept is mostly applied to memory — and the way a physical environmental, based on certain cues, forms the basis for the recollection of that environment. In this case, however, we’re talking about the exposure to an environment (or, a picture of an environment) as the basis for imagining the same setting at some point in the past for the purpose of imagination, identification and, perhaps, empathy. That is, unless there are greater parallels to Susan Sontag’s, “The Imagination of Disaster,” her Cold War essay about sci-fi as the way people’s minds processed and suppressed the threat of atomic war. In that case, maybe these photos are supposed to creep us out by putting us in touch with everything about modern technology — especially communications and transportation-wise — that’s way out of our control.

Like I said, I’m not sure how they work but they do.

Okay, I’m getting off now.

Complete NYT slideshow: Reconstructing a Routine Flight. Article here.

(photos: Rahman Roslan for The New York Times. caption 1: The early morning flight draws tourists, business travelers and visiting relatives. caption 2: Attendants prepared refreshments at 2 a.m. aboard the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight, which has been renamed Flight 318 since the disappearance of Flight 370. caption 3: A passenger slept during the red-eye flight.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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