“… between these two locations (a point and a plane) is an indeterminate extensive space in which an observer is ambiguously situated.”
Crary (2010) proposes that a camera obscura offers a space in which the viewer becomes confined in a private space, cut off from the exterior world while viewing it; and that the camera obscura does not allow the viewer to see their position as part of the representation of the outside world.
Logistically sometimes it’s hard to organise a camera obscura truck, and I’m trying to find another lo-fi way to share this adventure with people. Originally developed as an application to Perth’s Proximity Festival, I have been doing a few casual afternoon camera obscura tours with friends with my dinky prototype camera obscura headwear.
It’s a completely different experience to the Road Movies (Manilla & Shanghai for example), BUT… It’s pretty darn fun. For one, it’s fun being ridiculous and wearing a cardboard box on your head. Second, it’s fun getting uncomfortable and high on the fumes from all the gaff tape used to seal it. Third, your immediate surrounds are translated from a single point – the pinhole – to a one-dimension plane sitting only 50cm away from your face, so freaking close and hard to make out at the same time.
And the REAL fun comes when you try to navigate. It’s like walking backwards, trying to figure out upside down from right way up, and watching the street transform into an old-fashioned movie.
The picture you see has muted vintagey colours, is blurred at the edges, is unevenly-rendered and is completely disorienting. You point the back of your head to direct what you want to see in front of you. You look down and see the leaves swaying in the tree above. You need a guide to help you figure out what the hell is going on and how to walk and to watch out for cars and then – boom. You see it all in front of your face in real time and you’re striding confidently. You see neighbours in Thornbury whispering as they pass. You see bums laughing at you on Smith Street. And then you laugh too.
Contrary to Crary’s position, I think this little game actually makes us hyper aware of our precarious position and representation in the outside world. We are very, definitely, gloriously, in it.