Bussard Ramjet, by John Timberlake

John Timberlake (born 1967) is a London-based artist and writer whose work frequently explores realities that never came to pass. Blurring the boundaries between literature, painting and photography, this slim retro-styled volume ponders a glittering possible future for mankind that, fifty years ago, seemed to be there for the taking. Proposed by the US physicist Dr. Robert W. Bussard in 1960, the Bussard Ramjet (BR-J) was an ambitious proposal for an interstellar drive that would have required leaps technology and, Timberlake argues, radical changes in global economics and the possible remodelling of humanity itself. His images, some apocalyptic, others featuring futuristic water conduits superimposed onto bleak, contemporary settings, are interposed between dream-like narratives referencing alternate pasts and possible futures. There are constant references to Poul Anderson’s 1970 science-fiction novel Tau Zero, which describes an optimistic future in which the BR-J has made interstellar travel a reality; The contrast with the bleakness of Timberlake’s narratives could not be greater and suggests that Bussard’s bold vision will remain forever a dream.

(This book review appeared in Art World Magazine www.artworldmagazine.com Issue 10 April/May 2009.)

© Christopher Seddon 2009

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Author: prehistorian

Prehistorian & author

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