Excerpt from The Imaginary Landscape: A Conversation with Patty Chang and David Kelley, published in Afterimage Vol. 42, no. 3
Marcus Civin: You wrote to me that you were fascinated with the crash of the USS San Francisco in 2005. Let me read a little from a New York Times story following the crash: “A series of mistakes at sea and onshore caused the 6,900-ton submarine, the San Francisco, to run into an undersea mountain not on its navigational charts. One crewman was killed, 98 others were injured.” I imagine you were reading about this crash in the Pacific Ocean and you were reading about the rising water level of the Yangtze River in China— about tree clearing, habitat loss, the flooding of religious and cultural sites, the massive government resettlement project, the building of the giant hydroelectric Three Gorges Dam… You made an abstract connection between two stories, across newspaper columns, through different bodies of water.
David Kelly: This was one of those projects that is difficult to explain. When someone asks: “What are you working on?,” we’d say: “Well, it’s a story about the Three Gorges Dam, and the flooding it’s going to create—this giant reservoir that will displace more than a million people—and the dam will be the largest concrete object in the world, and while this is happening, in our film, a US submarine runs into an undersea mountain in the Pacific Ocean that is not on their charts. And also, we’re thinking about the Jules Verne book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea  and about the lost city of Atlantis…” It’s a rather discursive project.
Patty Chang: In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, there’s a window in the side of the submarine, and Verne describes the window as being oblong; the language isn’t more precise, and there have been many people since then who’ve rendered that submarine, and sometimes the windows are roundish and sometimes they’re rectangular.
DK: We cut a hole in our submarine, even though it’s this US submarine, that let it become like Captain Nemo’s boat in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the Nautilus.
PC: In the Disney film version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea [1954, directed by Richard Fleischer] the window is circular. But by making it oblong or rectangular, the window is more like a movie screen…