This GIF from Giselle Zatonyl is labelled Womb Stretch. So why, you might be asking, does it look like the opening credits of Sliders or Doctor Who? Or the wormhole from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? “Hyperspace” from Star Wars? Visualizations of the internet in bad 1990s movies about hackers?
Well, one time in grad school, I tried to use all of those trippy special effects as an example of an abstraction that is collectively understood— as if at some point in the 20th Century, humanity decided that we will represent an unknowable journey as a swirly blue tunnel of light. While I was struggling to verbalize that, a professor cut me off and explained: “It’s a birth canal.”
Is this what tiny future-people see as they’re being squeezed out from the dark, mushy comfort of the womb to the cold, dry brightness of the cruel outside world? Perhaps we all have a distant memory of sliding through a translucent, mysterious corridor—one that registers as a faint blue glow to developing, sensitive tiny eyes. Maybe that first, terrifyingly new journey from the familiar has been ingrained in us all, so that we later understand it as “time-space anomaly” or “parallel world” or “what the internet looks like.” Is the final frontier visualized as a faint memory of birth that’s shared by humanity? Not me. I was a C-section. It will always be a Stargate to me.