Heimweh / Homesickness

This artist’s book — a non- catalog — has been produced as part of an ongoing series of exhibitions by the artist Joseph G. Cruz

Included essay:

Heimweh / Homesickness

The use of the horizon as a navigational tool shifted in 1946 when the U.S. launched a retrieved WWII German V-2 rocket just over the Kármán line, the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space. A camera attached to the V-2’s nose captured the curvature of the earth for the first time in history, revealing the flattened horizon from a godlike perspective. The gyroscope used to orient this guided aircraft was a key factor in shattering previously held notions of navigation by revealing a new relational realm. As the rocket tilted, the gyroscope remained stable, continuously correcting a human-centered understanding of linear perspective that had ignored the curve of the horizon for the sake of ground referenced navigation. [i] The V-2 rocket produced the first images of Earth as a complete, singular object, challenging ideas of truth and ground, and thereby sparking a paradigm shift in cultural and political perspectives.

Artist Hito Steyerl suggests that the shift from terrestrial-based space to an open-space orientation presents an identity crisis that questions the importance of the ground itself as an absolute. If the ground is no longer an absolute for navigation, we must then be, in Steyerl’s terms, in a state of “free fall” or “Groundlessness”.[ii] Joseph Cruz considers the V-2 rocket as an aggregate of this shift in perspective—from the horizontal to the vertical.[iii]

Aerial views and tracking are now so accessible that a “post-human” perspective­—where the body is a data point—has already been integrated into our daily lives. People walking with mobile devices are by now accustomed to navigating with their phone’s GPS while looking up at the sidewalks and streets immediately in front of them. This familiar yet strange horizontal-to-vertical loop illustrates Hito’s groundlessness, where position is based on the body and three satellites that track a location with data rates and orbiting speeds rather than right angles and measuring sticks.

As we move into an era of wearables and drones, the apparitional status afforded us by advancing technologies can be seen as a metaphor for the transcendence from the physical body into a conscious spirit, or data stream, that emerges from the body while at the same time controlling its movements. Donna Haraway takes note of the ease by which we can experience—or be possessed by—a godlike limitless vision on a daily basis. She states the “Vision in this technological feast becomes unregulated gluttony; all seems not just mythically about the god trick of seeing everything from nowhere, but to have put the myth into ordinary practice.”[iv]

The aforementioned horizontal-to-vertical perspective is a parallel, yet dislocated, reality that is prompted by both the real-time geographic tracking and our immediate observable environment. Haraway’s concept of “seeing everything from nowhere” is a case in point. Satellites share an open-space orientation through a line of data that ultimately connects to an individual, making the body a data point in open space, as well as a physical object on the ground. These realities converge in a car while a person looks simultaneously out a windshield and at a mounted GPS: the driver may believe they are driving toward a vanishing point when, in fact, they are a vanishing point.


[i] Denari, Neil M. Gyroscopic Horizons. New York: Princeton Architectural, 1999. 12. Print.

[ii] Steyerl, Hito. "In Free Fall: A Vertical Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective." E-flux 24 (2011): 1-8. Web.

[iii] "Studio Visit with Joseph Cruz." Personal interview. 18 Mar. 2015.

[iv] Haraway, Donna. "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective." Feminist Studies 14.3 (1988): 581. Web.