Angela Sneider MFA Thesis 2017
How can we think about the relationship between physical and psychological spaces? Obscura explores the possibility that the intersection of the two can foster deeply contemplative experiences, and enable attentive and empathetic consideration of our relationship with the world. The works in the exhibition propose that illusion and artifice contribute to both our experiences of space and their conceptualization. Since their invention, photographic impressions have possessed an evidentiary power due to their indexical relationship with the physical world. Based in various photographic forms, Obscura prompts a negotiation of reality and its representations that calls into question the truthfulness of photography. The prints and camera obscura installation in the exhibition make use of the mimetic relationship inherent to photography, with the hope of drawing attention not only to the photograph’s capacity for deception, but also to the elusiveness of perception and memory. I ask viewers what it means to discern reality from illusion and to consider the liminal space where these seemingly disparate notions overlap. Throughout the works, photographic textures and surfaces of natural materials offer a sense of familiarity, recalling physical spaces such as mineshafts, caves, undergrowth or mountains. In the series of photopolymer prints, recurrent areas of darkness conceal vast portions of images, rendering access impossible. Incongruities in scale and subject matter unsettle the scenes and allude to their artifice. The represented spaces reference built structures but exist in a state of transformation, reclaimed by natural materials and processes. Enclosed and potentially claustrophobic, the images suggest a sense of solitude and of silent, individual encounter with things. These dream-like scenes serve to explore an ‘in-betweenness’; spaces of both protection and entrapment, of natural and built, of fascination and fear. They are settings in which something is on the verge of taking place. The camera obscura installation portrays illuminated spaces projected through small apertures onto the walls of a darkened room. The projections follow the same laws of optics that are the foundation of the fixed photograph. Whereas historically the camera obscura projected an image of the external world (reversed and inverted), the devices in the exhibition reveal fabricated spaces. I am interested in the role of illusion in the printed and projected scenes. What is happening in the shifting moment when the eye catches on to the trick; and how does the knowledge of this conspiracy alter the experience of the image and of the illusion? Material clues such as corrugation will eventually lead to some understanding of the works’ construction, but the feeling of certainty comes in and out of focus, as sand pours through a ceiling or an illuminated fog floats in a snow filled room. This fluctuation invites heightened attention and opportunities for curiosity and surprise, prompting an examination of the nature of perception and our relationship with physical space.