CAMERA LUCIDA: SONOCHEMICAL OBSERVATORY
Dmitry Gelfand, Evelina Domnitch
2003-PRESENT

Developed in collaboration with scientific laboratories in Japan (AIST), Germany (Goettingen University), Belgium (Meurice Institute), Russia (Alexander Miltsen), the Camera Lucida (lucid or light chamber) installation directly transforms sound waves into light by employing a phenomenon called sonoluminescence: ultrasound within a liquid causes micro-bubbles of gas to implode, at which point they reach temperatures as high as those found on the Sun (5000K to 10000K) and emit light in the shape of sound waves. Theories for the cause of a collapsing bubble’s glow range from black-body radiation and plasma ionization, to quantum vacuum fluctuations and coherent optical lasing.

A transparent glass chamber is filled with a gas-infused liquid. Multiple ultrasonic transducers, attached to the walls of the chamber, generate a modulating sonochemical environment. After adapting to the absolute darkness surrounding the installation, the observer gradually perceives the highly detailed shapes and movements of glowing sonic vibrations. A hydrophone (a high-frequency microphone submerged in liquid) translates a live ultrasonic performance into the human hearing spectrum, consisting of sounds emitted by the transducers as well as hundreds of thousands of collapsing gas bubbles.

The ancient practice of entering a dark space in order to perceive the ‘invisible’ light, stems from the psyche's nightly submergence into self-lit ether. Camera Lucida allows its observer to spontaneously stretch the sensorial threshold by means of particular kinematic processes. At the beginning of the 20th century, Edmund Rorschach, whose ink blot tests are still used in modern-day psychoanalysis, discovered the so called kinematic effect: the brain's ability to project latent thought patterns when exposed to fluctuating visual abstractions. Through sonoluminescence, the observer is transported to the delicate micro-horizon that chemi-physically joins the discrete energy systems of sound and light.

Dmitry Gelfand and Evelina Domnitch (USA) create interdisciplinary art works that integrate physics, chemistry and computer science with esoteric philosophical practices. Dismissing all forms of fixative and recording media, their installations exist as ever-transforming phenomena offered for observation. Because these rarely seen phenomena take place directly in front of the observer without being distorted and flattened onto a screen, they often serve to extend the observer’s sensory envelope. Their projects have been exhibited at I-20 and Diapason, New York; The Museum of Dreams, St. Petersburg; Mains d'Oeuvres, Paris; Quartier Ephemere, Montreal; Netmage, Bologna; Minsk Planetarium, Belarus; Nokia Lab, Moscow; Nijo Castle, Kyoto.

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