La Stanza del Tempo (The Room of Time)

By means of an unexpected – and, in certain regards, improper – use of photography, Fiona Annis has transformed objects from the museum’s collection, including celestial telescopes, globes, mirrors, and pendulums, from research instruments to subjects of study…

– Excerpt from the exhibition text by Alessandra Troncone

While studying the history of photography I came to understand that the invention of the photographic apparatus is indebted to optical lenses first used by astronomers. This led to my ongoing interest in the links between photography and astronomy, which share a binding interest in light and time, as well as the exploration of that which lies beyond the visible limits of observation. To explore this relationship further, I undertook a residency at the Museum of Astronomical Instruments at the Observatory of Capodimonte. The museum houses a rich collection of sophisticated devices, dating from the mid-sixteenth to mid-twentieth century, which first rendered visible previously unseen realms. By extending human vision into seemingly incalculable depths, these instruments – including celestial telescopes, globes, and pendulums – changed our perception of the universe and our position within it.

To transform the instruments in the museum’s collection from research tools to subjects of study, I directed my camera lens on the instruments themselves, but with my camera’s focus set to infinity, thus completely losing the contours of the image.  The focus is set on a faraway point, well beyond the objects themselves, and therefore to a place not fully visible, projecting these same objects into the galaxies, whose vision they are supposed to report to us. The result is a soft-focus image, which we are not accustomed to in the era of high definition, but that same quality alludes to worlds yet to be discovered, those that we do not yet see clearly, but of which we perceive. By means of this unexpected – and, in certain regards, improper use of photography, art takes liberties denied to science, to evoke an impalpable matter, not yet measured and classified, shifting from image to imagination.

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