Let’s talk some more about Colonel Joseph Kittinger. I mean the guy that in 1960 jumped out of space from a height of 31 km and who our generation is only familiar with because Red Bull hijacked the jump by doing it again last year. This time of course as an advertisement stunt, while Joseph’s original jump was done under the flag of science. Let me tell you that in my opinion both framings are no good to justify the waste of so much time, energy, money, ingenuity, courage and whatever more is needed to bring a man up in a balloon to that height and make him jump towards the ground.
Look again at the above picture of Joseph while he just started his decent and the clouds are still very far beneath him. Doesn’t it remind you somehow of that very famous painting of the Romantic Period? I mean “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich, the one where a lone man is standing on a high ridge and staring out over a sea of clouds where some mountain tops come jutting out of.
And if that painting is paradigmatic for the Romantic experience of the sublime, if it conveys the experience that we can be overwhelmed by the shear enormity of natural events, in relation to which we feel insignificant and have to surrender, than Kittinger’s jump is the ultimate fulfillment of this Romantic dream. Kittinger falling there, above the clouds, lost in space, a true wanderer above the sea of fog.
So, in my opinion the only justified framing for Kittinger’s space jump would have been to put this act forth as a work of art that certainly would have been appreciated by Friedrich. And if I’m not mistaken Yves Klein would have to, although for entirely different reasons. And what of the Dutch Bas Jan Ader; would he have been hanging from trees or driving into Amsterdam canals when he could have been jumping from the sky? I think there’s a whole history to tell of the art of falling from heights, and the different concepts that are behind it.
You know, I very much wanted to be part of that jumping movement, I really wanted to have that life changing experience of Kittinger and to know for sure the vastness of the human experience.
So, imagine yourself there falling from 30 km high above the clouds toward earth. Would your life ever be the same?