12-29 November 2014
Opening Night | Thursday 13 November 6-8pm
Time Lapse continues Christopher Handran’s exploration of the mediation of experience by apparatuses and the use of the gallery space as a laboratory of perceptual affect. His works foreground the perceptual dimensions of spectatorship, bringing the viewer face to face with the apparatus, or immersing them within its workings. His practice enacts a makeshift media archaeology, often revisiting or reinterpreting devices at the historical intersections of art and science, ranging from the camera obscura to today’s global dissemination of digital images. Time Lapse considers the relationship between the gallery and the world outside, creating a space in which to watch time passing.
IMAGES | Christopher Handran, Splitscreen Obscura 2013 camera obscura projection, light shade, screens, Splitscreen Obscura 2013, detail, camera obscura projection, light shade, screens| Images courtesy of the artist.
Artist interview with Rachael Haynes, 2014.
Let’s start with the title – what is the significance of time in the work and in your practice? For you, is the installation creating the experience of time in a particular way, is it a marking of time? How do these ideas of time relate to the history of your practice and the relationship between the photographic moment and time?
There is a recurrent concern with time, and particularly in terms of the relationship between recorded time and the experience of that recording. Much of my earlier photographic work was concerned with extending the moment of exposure by making it the conclusion of a process – modifying or making cameras and lenses as a physical and conceptual deconstruction of the medium. Those processes left traces on the images, emphasising the perceptual nature of viewing the work and destabilising the documentary nature of the medium, by making photographic images that were closer to glimpses or half-remembered images rather than ‘perfect’ records. That focus on experience is common to the earlier photographs and the current work, but while the earlier work sought to extend that moment backwards through the process, the more recent work also extends more forward into the time of the viewer’s experience, bringing them into direct relationships with the apparatus and not just its outputs or effects.
In this installation you’ve recreated the historical apparatus of the camera obscura. You have utilised the device of the camera obscura in several previous installations such as Drive-by (2013) and Splitscreen Obscura (2013). What is particular about this re-incarnation? What draws you to the camera obscura as a historical device?
I’m interested in particular in the immersive experience of the camera obscura – one of the things that I try to do in my work is foreground the relationship of the spectator to the apparatus, and the camera obscura offers an opportunity to situate the spectator inside it. In a sense, it represents the apparatus at its most basic – the projected image is dependent on the apparatus, so the process of mediation is purely optical and experienced in an embodied way. It is embodied in the sense of being spatial but also because the experience changes over time, for example as your vision adjusts to the light. Its operation is simultaneously mediated and direct, highly visible while also transparent. I’m also interested in its resonance within the histories of both art and science. The camera obscura informed the scientific understanding of light and optics in the work of people like Alhazen, Kepler, Huygens, Newton and Goethe, was a tool for artists and the development of photography, as well as providing a model for consciousness in the work of philosophers as diverse as Descartes, Locke and Marx.
What for you, is the significance of re-making or re-staging historical devices that use light and the image, such as the camera lucida, stereoscope, kaleidoscope, or Gysin’s Dream Machine and Moholy Nagy’s Light Space Modulator? Would you describe your practice as a form of media archaeology?
I’m interested in the connections between technologies of the present and their precursors of historical variants. In particular I’m interested in the materiality of these technologies of image production and experience mediation and revisiting or reinterpreting the precursors of today’s technologies offers a way of exploring this materiality. Although the camera obscura is about as analogue as an apparatus can get, I do also work with digital technologies and contemporary mass-produced materials. I am always trying to work against the assumption of transparency or immateriality that is often projected onto photographic or digital technologies. I have described my practice as a ‘makeshift media archaeology’ but I am less interested in reclaiming these technologies than I am in exploring their potential to illuminate the relationships between materiality and mediation. It is archaeological in the sense that it is a material investigation of historical connections that have perhaps been forgotten, but it is also less about celebrating or reclaiming particular technologies than it is about considering what light they shed on our relationship to technology, and the ways that they frame our experience of the world.
In terms of the specific site at Blindside, it is a very iconic view of Flinders Street Station and the clock, which both produces and frames the work. Does this installation comment on the hermetic nature of the gallery, breaking down distinctions between inside and outside?
For me one of the important aspects of the camera obscura is that it ruptures the perceived autonomy or neutrality of the gallery space by connecting the gallery to the space outside. In a sense the work is the space, or the relationship between the two spaces, and the camera obscura simply mediates that relationship. My earlier camera obscura works occupied more enclosed spaces, where the view was screened out or walled off, making the intervention even more of a rupture. The specific location of Blindside makes this more of an inversion I guess, turning the view from the window inward.
There’s a sense of wonder in seeing the camera obscura at work and part of this fascination is in the simplicity of its principles. This seems to be a consistent thread in your practice, which plays between simple means and spectacular effects. What experience do you hope to create by exploring this relationship?
There is definitely a sense of wonder at play. I think in part that comes from the surprise that these interventions actually work; despite the theoretical knowledge of the physics behind it, it is always a surprise. And I think that more generally that sense of wonder is important – it is another reason why I am interested in early photography and film, and in obsolete technologies. Through familiarity we stop paying attention to the materiality of technologies, and instead think of them as transparent or immaterial. So while the interventions that I perform critically deconstruct this relationship, at the same time they are productive and transformative in the sense of teasing out some of those qualities that become overlooked or forgotten, and exploring other potential modes of experience. Similarly the imagery, materials and subjects that often feature in my work are very everyday or ordinary but are processed, reconfigured or reinterpreted to be seen in another light. Every act of mediation is an act of transformation.