Simon Starling. Black Drop

Accompanied by a whirring sound of a cutting table, a cutter separates individual film frames. We see only his hands, the machine, reminiscent of an seemingly old-fashioned area and images of a white spot: the transit of Venus as we learn

The transit of Venus, which takes place just four times in over 250 years, was technically documented for the first time in 1874. The French astronomer Jules Janssen developed a so-called »photographic revolver«, a device to minimize human errors in the timing of the entry of Venus into the edge of the Sun. Accurate timing was all but impossible as the silhouetted Venus, appeared to distort and elongate on contact with the limb of the sun. Janssen‘s astronomical interest thus coined the development of Etienne Jules Marey’s photographic gun, as well as the cinematography of the Lumière Brother’s.

To calculate the average distance from Earth to Sun, it takes two different views. Starling researched information about the historic travels, their insights and documentation. His result is a story of the relationship between astronomy, photography, and the beginnings of moving images.

Starting from the idea that the transit of Venus 2012 would maybe be the last, that could be recorded on celluloid (the next time Venus passes 2117 from the Sun), British artist Simon Starling visited not only historical observation sites of expeditions, such as point Venus, Tahiti, 1769, and Honolulu, 1874, but he sumptuously filmed this spectacle of nature.

The film »Black Drop« documents, how someone in a traditional cut square sifts through film footage, sorts out, cuts and tries to give structure and order. We see historic pictures from archives, news from exotic places, and huge telescopes in remote landscapes. This editor disjoints pictures until time and space coalesce for a complex narrative to start an epic journey that merges a common fascination for stars and the history of technology. Each of Simon Starling‘s recordings impresses by its precession and timing.

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Event Venue

Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt
Galerie der Kunst nach 1945
Friedensplatz 1
64283 Darmstadt


Dr. Gabriele Mackert
T 06151 1657-012

Running Time

July 2 until July 31 2019

Gallery Talk

Wednesday, July 3, 6 pm
with Dr. Gabriele Mackert