Into the Darkness: Critical Verticalities through the Black Marble

Tiago Ferraz Leal Torres Campos, Benek Cincik

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In April and October 2012, NASA together with the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership acquired several terabytes of satellite data of Earth. This was then used to produce a planetary photomap by seamlessly assembling together high-resolution pictures taken at different temporal moments. The resulting image became known as the Black Marble.
It is not difficult to see the representational agenda behind the Black Marble, and read it as a mirror-image of Earth as a whole, and of humans as a collective totality. An uncritical conceit of the portrait of the planet in the darkness through high-tech remote sensors may follow narratives that reveal some of the underlying assumptions: yellow lights represent the presence of human agency, while darkness reveals its absence. Following a line of similar representations of Blue Marble imagery, which triggered holistic worldviews tangent to the Anthropocene proposition, the Black Marble further contributes to the idea of a single image that allegedly gestures towards an increasing planetary awareness of the limits of human mastery and its representation. However, the depiction is different from the former ones in its emphasis on placing humans as a geologic force through entanglement and dispersion.
The Black Marble compresses the sum of terraforming human and non-human assemblages to a flat rhyzomatic dispersion reduced to a horizontal surface. Thicker components of the technosphere, such as transportation, communication, or energy production, render invisible in a dark background where fictitious stable lines of land and water give the impression of solid ground. This horizontality eventually disregards the massive above and underground infrastructure that reinforces vertical colonisation across the bio-hydro-geosphere.
We depart from an analysis of the materiality of the image to open up questions about the materiality of the whole planet, or even the materiality of its production and distribution mechanisms. We investigate technospheric infusion and territorial material exchange in relation to geophysical tectonic tensions, atmospheric and climate fluidity. These critical assemblages aim to use the Black Marble as a starting point for discussing uneven geographies and power geometries of planetary commoning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2017
EventPostcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation - Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Jun 201724 Jun 2017


ConferencePostcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • Black Marble, Anthropocene, Critical Thinking, Planetary Imagery

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