In 2000, the 135-meter-high London Eye (re)launched the interest in large-scale urban observation wheels and propelled a rivaling appetite for ever grander designs on a global scale. In Ferriscope, B.M have investigated this apparent boom of observation wheels across “world-class cities” by staging a meeting between some of the most iconic examples in operation today and the original Ferris Wheel, created by George W. G. Ferris Jr. in 1893 for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In the video, sequences from London Eye, Las Vegas High Roller and Wiener Riesenrad are combined with 24 animated archival photographs taken from the original Ferris Wheel in a visual experiment suspended between total overview and control on the one hand and vertigo and instability on the other.
The Ferris Wheel experience and construction can be seen in line with the genealogy of immersive imaging practices, starting well before, but intensified upon the invention of the painted panorama, diorama and eventually the aerial moving image. The introduction of such gigantic observation rides into the urban environment in our time powerfully suggests an idealized perception of the city as a spectacular cinematic establishing shot. This simple and seemingly benign maneuver plays a key role in the process of gentrification that transforms the city itself into a site for visual consumption.
Moreover, the observation wheel’s continuous circular motion, which takes the masses on a smooth ride between the street view and the bird’s eye view, can be seen in line with a visual trope that B.M call proxistance. This trope is characterized as a combination of proximity and distance in one image, with the effect of producing the world as a model. Today, proxistance is a dominant visual modality across data visualization models, interactive maps, deep zooms, FPV drones and CGI cinema.
By exploring the capacities not strictly in line with the commercial intentions and the forces built into for-profit-models, B.M approach proxistance in a media archaeological manner by bringing the combination of mechanical movement and the view from the Ferris Wheel to the foreground as a force of cinematic revelation and curiosity. In doing so, B.M reveal and expand on the genealogical relations and ongoing individuation between rides, cinema, and aerial imaging and how this impacts worldviews and urban development.
Ferriscope is made in collaboration with Tom Gunning, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago and Jan C. Schacher, Zurich University of the Arts, Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology. Torbjørn Helgesen Nordvik and Magnus Sjursen made tremendous contributions to the mechanical and electronic engineering.