Black Drop


Simon Starling ( British, 1967 )

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General Description

The “black drop” effect is a visual phenomenon that occurs during the transit of Venus, when the planet appears to spill into the edges of the sun at the beginning and end of its transit. For centuries, this effect foiled scientists’ attempts to accurately measure the distance between the earth and the sun. Starling’s documentary details French astronomer Pierre César Jules Janssen’s attempt to precisely photograph the 1874 transit of Venus using his new invention, the “revolver photographique” or “photographic revolver.” Although Janssen failed to cap­ture an unobstructed photograph of Venus, he uninten­tionally invented a precursor to the movie camera. Black Drop is about the relationship between humans, the cosmos, cinema, and the technology that mediates between them.

Excerpt from

Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ed., TWO X TWO X TWENTY: Two Decades Supporting Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art), 2018, 175.

Web Resources

Watch a clip from Simon Starling's Black Drop.