Diskurs, Berlin

- 2021

There is something surprisingly charming about the simplicity of a camera-obscura.

We might assume that elements related both to the workings of our own sight, coordinated between the eye and the brain, and the recording of images inside a camera - light, shape, colour, perspective, etc - correspond with a whole swathe of unimaginably complex processes beyond our reasonable field of understanding. And yet, the phenomenon of a camera-obscura is amongst the most effective and simple tools enabling us to not only comprehend but actually experience how a camera works, as here we can physically enter inside one. We can see with our own eyes how light travels in straight lines, infiltrating inside a room and organising against its surfaces, by passing through an aperture and then filling an interior space with a projection of the outside world. Down is up and up is down inside what Mozi, an early Chinese philosopher in the first known record of a camera-obscura, circa 470BCE, described as the ‘treasure house’.

From a place of both safety and privacy, we can observe a small portion of life existing within the city and, all too easily, become mesmerised by it.

YOU ARE HERE is a camera-obscura installation piece designed for the exhibition relay It May Sound Utopian at Diskurs Berlin in 2021. YOU ARE HERE was on display between May 27th and June 9th. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the doors to the gallery remained closed and visitors were instead forced to engage with the installation through the windows of the gallery only, thereby positioning themselves within the artwork when standing in front of the lens, which was positioned at the street entrance to the gallery. The title of the installation acts as both a guide and a cold fact. When observing the projection made by the camera-obscura, through the perspective of CCTV cameras placed inside the gallery, we are reminded that we are here and nowhere else.

This installation was designed and presented at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe - a period in which drastic and unforseen changes to the way in which the majority of people experienced everyday life prompted the expression ‘new normal’ to become extremely popular. With so many truths and knowns falling under new scrutiny during this time, and with an increasing amount of human interactions taking place on the surface of a digital screen instead of face to face, this project intended to remind visitors where of they truly are.

You are here, of course.

- Dimensions (HxWxD): N/A
- Materials: Chipboard, Surveillance Camera System, TV Monitor, Bonfoton Camera Obscura Lens