The Androgyne at the End of the Universe: On Angelic Visitors, K-Pop Supremacy and the Final Feast

The first photograph ever taken of a black hole appeared to contain a disturbing anomaly. What was initially dismissed as a photographic blunder was in fact a gathering of aberrant energy, which, when converted into pixels, was revealed to be an image. It appeared to be a smudged photograph of a heart-shaped pool. A figure lurked at the edge of the frame, just out of focus. It seemed to be dressed in an elegant white three-piece suit, but we couldn’t be sure. There was something deeply unsettling about its pose. Its head tilted sideways, long tresses of hair falling across its face with the barest hint of a smile playing across its lips. Its left hand rested gently on its breast and the index finger of its right hand pointed upward to the heavens. We looked again, and the finger seemed to be pointing down to what we once called Hell and now affectionately referred to as the Earth’s molten core.

Our preliminary scan of the image revealed a number of disturbing correspondences to images stored in the digital Mnemosyne Atlas. [1] The posture had appeared before in a painting of Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci. Another search suggested a resemblance to a fourth-century-BCE engraving of the Greek deity Hermaphroditus found on a ruined temple wall on the slope of Mount Ida. But it also bore an uncanny resemblance to Jimin the singer from the K-pop group BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan). Scientists were puzzled. What to make of these curious resemblances? Had some troll merely been leaving their calling card in the telescopic system? I was called in to examine the image. But as I shook my head the room began to dissolve around me and I felt my lips moving against my will … ‘It comes to stalk the human realm / angel or devil we cannot tell / observe only that it’s at the helm / the Androgyne spectre of Heaven and of Hell …’

 

[1] The first analogue Mnemosyne Atlas was begun by the German art historian Aby Warburg in 1924 as an attempt to map ‘the after-life of antiquity’ in image and symbol. Warburg sought to trace the recurrence of these images by gathering examples of paintings, prints, maps and photographs etc. which conveyed what he described as bewegtes leben or life-in-motion. In particular Warburg was concerned with images which showed the struggle between the Apollonian gesture of form-giving and the Dionysian gesture of form-destroying. Unfortunately, the project drove Warburg mad as he soon began to observe these curious symmetries everywhere and at the time of his death in 1929 the project remained unfinished. The digital Mnemosyne Atlas was completed by the Warburg Institute during the Plague of 2020 through generous funding from donors who, for reasons of security, have chosen to remain nameless. But the military application of an image bank which can recognise the reappearance of archaic threats should be obvious.

Title Image:

BTS x Mattel Doll Collection, 2019
BTS Love Yourself: Speak Yourself world tour
pop-up store, Paris
Photograph: Naumova Ekaterina

 

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Thomas Francis Moran is a writer stranded between Melbourne and Adelaide who is currently completing a PhD at Monash University on the digital death and rebirth of cinema. As a teenager, Thomas was visited by an angelic androgyne who said things that were both beautiful and terrifying. Having forgotten what the angel said upon waking, Thomas has spent the last 10 years trying to forget the dream. But recently, Thomas has decided to pursue this vision and if anybody else would like to join the search, please do not hesitate to contact Thomas at: moran.francis.thomas@gmail.com.

 

 

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