Science in Society Archive

Uncharted Spaces
the Body of the Transitory

An artist articulates his art and science on elemental water Michel Kappeli

The rush of data and the flux of images are part of a general acceleration of a stream describing a condition of time, of our environment.

My approach to an image of flux is merged with the symbol of the existential, in a basic element water – the moving water as a current, a constantly transfiguring “body”. The speed and the transitory of the current allow experiments in time expansion and time compression. These were also the coordinates of my former light performances, which had a theme of decelerating sound.

The recordings of the babble and murmur of water I stretched and decelerated to its intimate expression of intensified moment.

To capture a purest possible image of the flux, it was most important to reduce technical aids as far as possible. I was obsessed by the idea of an “organic” attitude. For the mechanic functions of a camera I should find other solutions. With analogue photography on the verge of its last gasp, I found a way of reversing the subordination to digital possibilities.

At night, the whole space of the valley of Lucelle with its wonderful river serves as a (inverted) body of a camera. A flashlight takes the part of the shutter of the camera. And what takes the function of the lens? If I had no distance to my motif, if I entered it, if the picture were taken within the motif – no lens would be needed.

I hold photosensitive material into this stream… a large format film protected by a slim waterproof case is placed into the water, under the known structures of the surface …to stop the current for a fragment of a moment… the flashlight freezes the image of the moving water to the film. …To enter this volatile interspace… a space known as a transparent liquid with an eventually rippled surface …to extract an image, valid only for this instant. Due to the incident angle of the flashlight, the image reveals a three-dimensional insight, of a world known, yet totally hidden from view: a body with a physical structure and statics of motion.

What started as a purely conceptual artwork resulted initially in simple images of a mess of superimposed lines. I cared more about the voices of the darkness and the impact these circumstances have on me, and whether I could cross the border to the atavistic, or if there were other levels of transition.

As the intention was to enter unknown space, I was pleased enough with the result of the images. The recorded sound offered more opportunities for transformation, although with the help of more technical equipment.

There is also a reversed effect, from the photographic result back to the water; so I learned to read the water. The more the quality of the images improved, the more miracles were extracted. Or said more precisely: the quality improved due to the obsession of working in the river. It was the need to feel that kind of hilarious sense of being a receiver as well as a transmitter.

As a painter I was confused about the aesthetic outcome of my conceptual idea.

Although the media of the result of my concept has a photographic nature, I count myself among the painters. The essence of my intentions is less of a documentary type, than just a way to learn to see.

The artist’s works were exhibited at the 2011 Celebrating I-SIS event.

Article first published 01/11/10

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