Maxime Rossi’s 21-minute video Real Estate Astrology (2015) is a hallucinatory trip to Sedona, Arizona, a rugged desert Native Americans, New Age followers, and the surrealists Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning have considered a vortex of psychic energy.
When Ernst arrived in Sedona, he was amazed to find the landscape that had been haunting his dreams and fuelling his artwork. He and Tanning built their home Capricorn Hill there, and Sedona continued to inspire his work for many years. While Ernst serves as an unseen protagonist in Real Estate Astrology, the film’s title is a reference to a type of property speculation, in which adherents to New Age philosophy use the movements and relative positions of celestial objects to divine information about the appropriate times to buy and sell land.
Rossi charts the primal and cosmic energies emanating from the land by depicting the peculiar landscape, lodgings, and archaeological remains of the various inhabitants of Sedona in his film. He employed two cameras, using red and blue filters respectively, then overlapped these views to produce an anaglyphic stereoscopic effect (when observed with special glasses). Though Ernst and Tanning’s home was destroyed many years ago, Rossi was able to discover Ernst’s cabin “Rock House”, and a hut Ernst built into a small canyon among Hopi ruins. Close-up shots of interiors and exteriors of these properties and an adjacent ranch are combined with images of the vast stony landscape, cave paintings, surrealistic and ancient artifacts, birds (an allusion to Ernst’s avian alter ego Loplop), and other domesticated animals at a Sedona farm. At times, the doubled views are elegantly coordinated to generate an illusion of depth and presence. Yet, as the two sequences were edited separately, the superimposed images often operate at distinct spatiotemporal scales, producing a vibrant paranormal perception.
The sound of a saxophone trails the voice of a Sedona astrologer reading the natal chart of Ernst and the hut he constructed, which accelerates the psychedelic and meditative qualities of Rossi’s tour. Everyday phenomena attains an arcane magic, and the images become archetypes connecting alchemical traditions to historical archives, architecture, archaeology, and astrology. Thus Rossi takes the viewer on an ‘astral travel’ to the trans-temporal locus where the terrestrial red landscape comes in contact with the sublime blue of the sky.