Since the advent of magic lanterns in the 17th century, images have shown their powerful kinetic potential: the viewer can, without moving, journey around the world, dizzyingly accelerate, suddenly stop. None of us has ever been to Mars but NASA images allow us today to explore it with our eyes, rekindling that early experience: our sight as a tool for exploration. Such photos, along with other Public Domain or authorized materials, compose an imaginary visual journey to Mars, inviting the viewer to become an explorer, using his eyes as oars, moving between real and symbolic images linked to the planet’s observation and our popular imagination, to man’s relationship with outer space or to the fantasy of unknown creatures. Despite the great advancements in knowledge, outer space is, still today as in ancient times, a province of the mind’s eye where dead seas, buried civilizations, unknown inhabitants are waiting to be discovered; in brief, a place where we still project mystery and charm, the fear of the different and the hopes of a better future. For this reason scientific pictures and documents testifying the history of the observation of this planet, and as the imaginary that followed, have been also enriched with different kinds of images, chosen to portray the attempts of man, in the course of its history, to go beyond, to observe and imagine the unknown, driven equally by fear and hope, by the desire to see and the fear to watch; the attempt to control thus exempt the unknown to the domain of the doubt, which is always accompanied by suspicion and fear. The book appears as a kaleidoscope of images, photos, charts and illustrations, at first glance disorienting like all places we visit for the first time. The viewer’s effort is rewarded at the end of the book, where extensive captions and credits of the images are gathered, as an invitation to explore further our scientific and cultural heritage through the chaotic and fascinating World Wide Web.
Carla Rak (Rome, 1978) is a visual artist working mainly with photography, collage, textiles and writing. For many years photoeditor in a big photojournalistic agency, since 2011 she works as freelance consultant for photographers and as lecturer at a private photography academy. Obsessed with images, Carla is often interested in exploring their nature and boundaries, in playing with their ambiguity and with the transformation of their meanings through time and contexts, enacting different processes to liberate pictures from their solidified histories. Her work is often strictly connected with collecting: already existing images are the raw material to question the status of the photographic image and the starting point to stage for them a new atmosphere. With a degree in Sociology and a PhD in Communication Sciences, her academic writings on photography gained the recognition of the Institute of Philosophical Studies in Naples and the Cozzi Prize from the Benetton Foundation.