The camera obscura and the pursuit of the uncanny
This practice based research seeks to explore and extend the potential of camera obscura projections to perceptually transform objects and spaces by using their unique visual qualities. These pertain to immediacy and directness. Although apparently tangible, the projected images appear to reside in a void where there is an absence of surrounding visual reference. This causes the images to appear disconnected from any context, thereby prompting associations with Freud's notions of the uncanny and Proust's narrative of the transitional. The research consists of a sequence of practice based studies. These commenced with an exploration into the perceptual ambiguities of reflection and shadow. Perceptual ambiguity was further explored through the distorting effects of curved pinhole cameras. The latter began to suggest using the camera itself as an object within which something could be viewed. With the incorporation of focusing lenses, this led to projections where the observer was situated within the camera obscura. Throughout the research, the objects projected were always ordinary and familiar, commencing with a light bulb. The addition of lighting sequences thus enabled further exploration of various phases of ambiguity, as well as enhanced definition and recognition of the projected image. This was followed by projections of other objects, which sought to place them in a particular visual context; for example a mug projected into' an actual microwave located within a kitchen. Although this produced surreal connotations, the surrounding visual material diluted the impact of the projected image. A decision was therefore made to concentrate entirely on the presentation of the projected images by refining projection techniques to enhance their quality and definition. The introduction of movement subsequently heightened perceptual ambiguity, as did the addition of the multiplication of images. This led to a rich variety of projected imagery which ranged from the perceptible to the imperceptible, involving synchronicity, transparency, juxtaposition, transposition from line to plane, and contrast between stasis and movement. The increasingly extraordinary images prompted a reevaluation of the observer's visual assumptions. These practical investigations, together with historical, literary, and philosophical issues, combine to extend the possibilities of the camera obscura in terms of contemporary artistic practice.