Alexander Ponomarev: Macroscopia
Nadim Julien Samman
The periscope mediates between surface and (hidden) depths, the visible and the hidden. It is a mechanical and metaphorical continuum between revelation and obscurity. It also facilitates the act of looking while hiding the observer.
It may be a poetic exaggeration to characterize the vision enabled by this apparatus as voyeurism – with all its attendant sexual overtones. And, doubtless, emphasizing the phallic nature of the periscope’s ‘erection’ is a banality. Yet, the issue of desire cannot be dismissed. Often the periscope operator wants to – visually – seize the scrutinized object in order to facilitate capture in a more comprehensive sense. In war this often entails physical destruction. In such a manner the act of looking is a prelude to violent assault – having a ‘wicked way’ with the object. Art theory is replete with feminist accounts of ‘the violence of the male gaze’ and – for every banality must be repeated – the rising periscope is well-known preface to unwanted penetration (of a hull by a torpedo).
12 November 2010