The Studio of Eric Valosin

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Optics Experiments

In trying to build an arsenal of visual tricks and tools to use in projection projects, I've begun a series of optics experiments.  Ultimately my goal is to uncover some ways to create a visual negation that can go hand and hand with the mystical concept of apophatic negation.

I started by reconstructing an experiment by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his Phenomenology of Perception.  This box with two eyeholes has two compartments, one for each eye.  The left eye is looking into a poorly lit white compartment, while the right eye is looking into a well lit black compartment.  The optical result is that each compartment is seen as a somewhat neutral gray and therefore evens out into one gray visual plane.

Next to it I made a color wheel (which was quite a throwback to high school!), which I then photographed and projected onto itself.  
color wheel on wall

projected directly onto itself

My expectation was that I would find some quirky color theory stuff happening with the mixing of additive and subtractive color (light and paint).  Much to my surprise, it actually behaved in a largely subtractive manner (with the exception that adding like colors of different values the saturation seemed to be enhanced regardless).  Though seemingly not quite as exciting as I hoped, it actually proves quite promising because it means I can follow the normal rules of subtractive color mixing.  Therefore, projecting a color onto its complement does indeed, when calibrated correctly, yield gray.

color wheel, inverted, and projected onto itself (thus mixing complements)
So, by projecting or painting the background gray, I could then project a color onto its complement in order to gray it out and make it disappear visually.

the paper covering at bottom reveals the true orange of the projected image, and the shadow at top reveals the true blue of the painted image.  The space in between is the gray that results when the two are mixed

Here are some short clips of my tinkering:

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