The aPANOPTICON is a sculptural artwork which functions as a ,viewer operated, remotely controlled, miniature art gallery. It enables the viewer to explore its hidden contents and to view the results in the form of a projected live video on an adjacent wall. The aPANOPTICON took nine months to design and construct and had its debut in the "Anti Gallery Gallery Show" at the Espacio Gallery in January 2015.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Jane: reflections on the aPanopticon

Some final thoughts about the aPanopticon and how it worked for me as a medium of display.

Inside the installation - without covers
Inside the installation - with covers in place
This piece is the tallest object I placed inside. The metal lines of its construction form visual cues that tend to lead the operator to view it up and down. I realised this piece is interesting in this context because you cannot see the object in its entirety. This transforms the viewers experience of the object from the norm.This is the only object that was true of, and I realised that I would have liked to have placed one or two other objects that were larger than the view of the camera.
aPanopticon projection image
This shows the aPanopticon view of the same piece. Not so apparent at the live viewing (probably because I was focussed on operating the aPanopticon) but visible in the photograph is the blue in the top left of the image. This is the blue of the object as projected onto the wall, but seen through the canvas of the covering of the aPanopticon. This has occurred by chance because of the strong colour of the object, but also its positioning inside - so that the image of itself is repeated when the camera is pointing at this position inside. I wonder if this could be exploited further in any way when choosing or placing objects inside the aPanopticon? Or by changing the size or position of the projection, and/or the relative transparancy of the aPanopticon covering.

While the position of the viewpoint inside the aPanopticon changes - up/down, left/right, the distance and angle of view is constant. This is fairly obvious and straightforward when looking at small, solid objects. However, it does change the experience of looking at transparent or translucent objects. In the normal viewing situation as a viewer changes their relative angle (for instance, walking around a plinth) the view through, and experience of, a transparent object changes as different objects or backgrounds can be seen. This can be exploited, but can be detrimental if the artist does not have complete control over the surroundings (positioning, lighting, extraneous objects) of a work.

Despite the contained environment, the experience of the work was still affected by the lighting conditions in the Gallery - whether according to the time of day, there was daylight coming through the window behind the aPanopticon or whether the Gallery was lit by artificial light. As mentioned previously, the aPanopticon has its own lighting which revolves with the camera. I wondered if it would be of benefit to control the lighting conditions within the aPanopticon by using a blackout lining layer in the coverings. This would enable more precise decisions to be made when installing work that is light dependent. For example, the relative translucency of materials is greatly affected by the quantity of light behind or in front of the material. However, I did very much like the material quality of the canvas and the slight transparency which meant you could see the movement of the light inside the aPanopticon as the camera moved. 

Lastly, as I discussed this with Graham, I think the ergonomics and aesthetics of the control needs  more experimentation. The wooden handles of the controls are not generic controls and are not entirely obvious that they can be 'played with'. There is a natural inhibition with many gallery viewers that they cannot touch a display unless specifically asked to do so. I think the controls of the aPanopticon need to 'ask' the viewer more explicitly to interact with the piece. Though whether this is through the product design of the control or through labelling is a decision for Graham.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Jane: installation

On installation day, I brought as many objects as I could fit into my wheeled suitcase and hand luggage. It would have been expensive on EasyJet, but luckily I only had one change of train and a short walk at either end of my journey.

I aimed to choose as much variety of texture as I could, but I didn't have a definite plan on how I would curate my objects. The whole project is experiemental, and I wanted to enter into it in that spirit - to see what happened.

In fact, the wider curation of objects near to each other becomes largely irrelevant. While the operator can move the view in any direction they choose, the aPanopticon restricts this view to one that is totally blinkered. Objects that are on a single shelf will be seen together, but there is no need to set objects on separate shelves so that they are in visual balance or opposition to one another in the way you would in a gallery setting because they cannot be seen simultaneously.
Objects in place, covers hung
Closer view of objects in place (with lighting on)
The aPanopticon controls the quantity of what you see at any one point. You can have single, isolated objects on one shelf and multiple, instense objects on another shelf. In a normal setting, this could be uncomfortable, but the aPanopticon means that this contrast can be made without the consideration of a wider, peripheral view which might mean neither looks good.

I had brought prints on tissue paper with me that I thought I might hang in the background. However, the focus of the camera is fixed on the midpoint of the shelves. Hanging the prints in the background would have put them out of focus which I felt would not have suited the images.
Rejected print on tissue paper
Instead, I chose to hang a screenprint on a very openweave muslin. The muslin is crinkled, and the image is larger and bolder. This meant the lack of focus was less of an issue, while it added a further layer of texture and translucency. Also, the muslin was very easy to pin to the canvas hangings of the aPanopticon.
aPanopticon view of screenprint on muslin
The only difficulty in installing the work was that the shelves are quite wobbly when being handled. Some objects fell over while other shelves were being fixed or arranged. I don't think there is any movement when all is set up, but as I was not there during the exhibition hours, I decided that I would secure some of the pieces. I was able to clip the perspex stencils and labels to the metal cables with bulldog clips. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

aPanopticon: first experience

Once the aPanopticon was up and running and the Anti-Gallery Gallery Show was underway, I made my first visit to see the aPanopticon in action.

Outside of aPanopticon
Graham operating it
It was exciting. I really like the look of the structure itself. Its intriguing and unusual and definitely looks like it 'does' something which draws you in. At times when there was strong daylight coming from the window behind, there is a sense that there is something inside as you can see glimpses of silhouette through the relatively open weave canvas that covers the structure.

Internal view, with camera in action. My jar inserted into the current work.
We tested a couple of objects that I had brought, on the shelves to see how they looked when projected on the screen. 
View of jar when projected.
The camera has strong lighting that moves and rotates with the camera as it is controlled. This gave an interesting effect with the reflection on the glass of the jar. In a usual gallery setting, the aim would often be to minimise reflection because it interferes with the experience of the viewer. However, in the aPanopticon, I felt that it emphasized the dynamic of the movement of the camera and the altered relationship of the viewer to the work of art inside. I felt I wanted to exploit this more with the work that I showed and to carefully think about the textures of the objects that I showed.

I also realised that there was far more room in the aPanopticon than I had anticipated. This meant that I needed to bring more work to fill it. 

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Jane: Approaching the aPanopticon

Why did I want my work in the aPanopticon?
In September 2014 I embarked on a Masters degree at Kingston University and began presenting the work I was doing on a weekly basis. Though the setting was very informal, I realised that the framing of the work was still significant. Whatever was in the presentation space (i.e. an area of our studio room) might influence or prejudice the viewers (i.e. tutors and fellow students). This could be serendipitous, but mostly for me it is downright frustrating.

I began to understand that though I am completely happy for a viewer to take anything they like from my work and to make their own interpretations. I wanted more control over what was in the 'frame' of the work of art. Easy to do if making an image or a painting, but I was not. I was making and combining objects and juxtaposing them with film projection. I also have had bad experiences with the changing lighting conditions of a gallery adversely affecting a curator's view of my work.

My work with extra distractions
So ... I was beginning to think about ways in which I could control 'my exhibition' without extraneous interference. Taking over a whole gallery myself with an accompanying budget would be one solution. Using a 'peepshow' box or other hidden or contained structure in which to place work and control the environment would be another. But then I found Graham Asker and the aPanopticon. A far more sophisticated and developed structure than I could ever achieve.

I was very excited about Graham's concept and immediately got in touch with a proposal to show a selection of my work. I was very pleased to be invited to show some of my work.

Monday, 26 January 2015

The poster announcing the aPANOPTICON at the Anti Gallery Gallery Show, January 2015