Camera Obscura and Optical Experiments

April 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

Artist in Residence X Church Gainsborough

I was invited to take part in this arts council funded artist in residence scheme at X-church Gainsborough. I decided to turn this vast Victorian church into a multi-holed Camera Obscura.

The Church Camera obscura was split into 3 sections.

1. Two apertures on the main windows which produced a forty foot Image, which projected the sun at sunset.

2.A multi-holed Rear projection camera obscura,based John Herschels Star map of the Milky way .Each hole is a image and was installed in the front door so it pulsed with the wind (the image moved constantly in and out of focus)

3.In the middle of the church I blacked out the windows leaving the top of the window arches to produce a slit camera obscura.

Main Projection Screen

Main projection screen (producing 40 foot image)

Projection on church pillar

Slit Aperture projecting the window chevrons

Slit Apertures

The sun being projected and moving around the interior of the church

Multi-holed rear projection obscura of John Herschel star map of the milky way

The church before the blacking out of all windows

Starting to make this vast space light tight

Erecting scaffolding to black out the church windows

History of X church

Slumgothic derives from “Slum Gothic”, a characterization of the architectural style of x-church, formerly the Church of St. John the Divine, Gainsborough. Slumgothic hosts resident artists and sporadically delivers visual arts led projects, often with deliberately low budgets. Est. 2006

Slumgothic is partnering with  BendInTheRiver to present:

Cold Witness
x-church visual arts events on Saturdays
September 2011 – March 2012

X-church is ostensibly derelict and is closed much more than it is open. It has none of the normal gallery attributes – white walls, bright lights etc. It was a church, an ex church more than it is anything else. Some people call these buildings ‘meanwhile spaces’, places waiting for something definite to happen. The value of the building for what it communicates as it is, as it now is – battered and bruised, largely abandoned by the transient community that has grown up around it. Tough as it is there is no doubt that artists value the challenge of working at x-church  and residencies have demonstrably moved artists on. It is also true that the building can contribute to the regeneration of its neighbourhood, but only if people are physically there, on the ground.

The building is unheated and this autumn/winter we will be working with Slumgothic to deliver a program of visual art events in the cold. A visit to x-church is wrong-footing and experience tells us that people are wary of the building and its lack of comfort so we are gambling that a less comfortable experience is potentially a more meaningful one. A tough offer in tough times. We don’t want people to casually drift by, we want them to see the work, witness it.

On reflection our involvement with Slumgothic has opened up an ongoing dialogue around location. It could be argued that at every level the visual arts is preoccupied with where to put things and for some time now BendInTheRiver has not known where to put itself. It has  become a mentally itinerant and the fixed address at 54 has sat heavily like an ill-digested meal.

When St John’s was a church the focus was on Sundays. Going forward x-church will focus on Saturdays. This season heralds a new era for BendInTheRiver. One in which we will work more incisively in more places.

Ongoing Camera Obscura experiments

I am currently building a large Camera Obscura based on Sir John Herschel Star Map of the Milky Way.This immersive enviroment that I am building that consits of a Camera Obscura Starmap,so when the viewer enters the Camera Obscuras dark chamber they are confronted with hundreds of small apertures all producing images in the shape of the Milky Way.

This project references early texts and representations of the night sky as well as ideas of navigation,simulation,geocentricism and the peculiar nature of light.

I am also currently building wearable Pinhole Viewers that emulate the experience of being inside a Camera Obscura.This new work explores immersive enviroments and how our vision and perception of objects is easily fooled.Over the next couple of months I will be posting my encounters with Camera Obscuras,telescopic tubes,magnifers,zograscopes,magic mirrors,skewed perspectives,divination boxes,and an array of optical Philosphical machines: which were collectively know in the 1700`s as “pleasing deceptions”.

Come back and view a phantasmagoric spectacle of visual illusions,and join me on a  peusdo- scientific journey of the senses that will be full of philosophical speculation and creative problem solving.

Star Map Wearable Pinhole Viewer

The Milky Way after Herschel


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