The Observer Effect

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The Observer Effect exhibition was the culmination of a collaborative research project with artist Johanna Bolton. The exhibition explored the process of observation as artistic investigation and was informed by the quantum theory of the same name, which proposes that simply through the process of observing, an observer alters the thing they are looking at. Detailed investigations into everyday objects, forms and occurrences revealed their underlying complexity and depth and suggested that the observer is equally altered through the act of observation.

observer_10 A specimen drawer from the Collection from the Museum of Light displays archived light samples.

observer_02 A visitor observes the 365 observations of light from A Year of Light, a project undertaken for the International Year of Light 2015

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The exhibition included works from Michaela’s recent Daylight Observations project, in which changes in the luminance, intensity and colour of daylight are recorded from selected locations over a specified duration.

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The 365 observations of light, 365 images for Michaela’s recent project A Year of Light. An image/observation of light was posted each day on Twitter throughout 2015 for the International Year of Light.

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Detail of the images from the A Year of Light project.

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Daylight Observations No.1 (Summer, July 2015) and No.2 (Winter, December 2015).

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Detail from Daylight Observation No.1 (Summer, July 2015).

The Motion of Matter

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The Motion of Matter was a collaborative research project and exhibition with artist Johanna Bolton based upon Aristotle’s description of motion ‘as the passage of matter into form’. Aristotle postulated that no observation of the physical world could ignore the principles of motion, which he classified into four categories:

“motion which affects the substance of a thing
motion which brings about changes in quality
motion which brings about changes in quantity
motion which brings about locomotion”

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Through structured and intimate observations, the Motion of Matter investigated the multitude of ways motion changes our interpretations of and interactions with the material world. Based upon the durational daylight observations begun during the residency at the Old Lookout Gallery in July 2015, Michaela’s work in this exhibition explored the interaction between light and motion. Her process of observing changes in light from a single location across a day became equally focused upon the experience of stillness as it did about the motion of the orbiting earth.

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The exhibition included Projection Boxes and Light Specimen Drawers from the Collection of the Museum of Light as well as Michaela’s durational Daylight Observation prints. Johanna’s works included two and three dimensional sculptural objects, moving image and photographic prints.

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Photographs by Dominic Tschudin.

The Old Lookout

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It sometimes it is necessary to ‘step-off’ the rollercoaster ride of working life and find a place where time is measured by changes in light and tides and passing of long, quite days. Thanks to Karen Shepherdson, I have just returned from such a place, having spent nine days as Artist in Residence at the Old Lookout Gallery in Broadstairs in Kent, UK. The gallery is in an idiosyncratic old leaning weatherboard building on the jetty with views across the English Channel. It is slightly rough-hewn but beautiful. I found it deeply luxurious to sit and watch the sea whilst ruminating about the experience of being a body in light.

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Outside the locals partied on the esplanade on Friday evenings, cooked welks in a large steaming pot on Sunday morning and spoke of the weather often. Day-trippers rolled in like a tide at 9.45am and rolled out again, significantly pinker, at 6.00pm.

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Being there was all about rhythm, the rhythm of light, tide and life. My days went slowly and I spent my time researching and developing three light collection methods which will form the basis of my ongoing Museum of Light project. After some coaxing, all the techniques worked well and saw me observing, tracking and following light around the gallery space from dawn until dusk.

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The result is a collection of photographic sequences, luminance and colour temperature data and visual and text-based observations of changes in light within a specific frame. My challenge now is to collate this data, investigate what correlations result from these different approaches and to produce a series of art works based on these observations.

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The intended outcomes of the residency are a pocket sized publication titled ‘A Light Collector’s Field Guide’, a short film about light and global orbit and the addition of a new data set to the Museum of Light archive.

lookout_15 lookout_16 the old lookout gallery

Running Away with the Circus


After six months of intensive animation, I have had the satisfaction of seeing the live performance of Circa’s Carnival of the Animals. This circus spectacular combines extraordinary live performance with animated moving image in a 40 minute show for children. The work premiered this week at the Out of the Box Festival at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane. The set designs work beautifully, the projection is balanced perfectly with Jason Organ’s lighting design and the performers are genuinely astounding.

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Thanks to the Circa team for inviting me to join them on this adventure. And thanks also to Charlie Taylor, Jean-louis Pêcheur and James Baker for their inventive and idiosyncratic contributions to the work. Director Yaron Lifschitz declared this project never promised any sanity and there were definitely moments of madness along the way but ultimately Carnival of the Animals is a beautiful piece of work which deserves a long and prosperous life.

See a full portfolio of images from the performance here.

Making a Collected History of Light

A Collected History of Light is currently on show in the Nostalgias Exhibition at the Pie Factory Gallery in Margate from Nov 1 -12. It is a beautiful and engaging exhibition, curated by Monica Takvam and Sam Vale to coincide with the Nostalgias Conference which will take place at the Winter Gardens in Margate Nov 9-10.

It has been a very busy few weeks in the lead up to the exhibition, but the work is now successfully installed. I have carried the idea of A Collected History of Light around with me for a long time and it is very satisfying to see the work come to life at last.

I had made a prototype of the light drawers earlier in year using optic fibre and a range of display technologies but none of them worked particularly well. I needed to resolve the light source in the drawers to make the piece work as I had imagined.

To achieve this I undertook a number of experiments, starting by hacking existing lcd screens and adding led arrays. This was interesting but did not bring enough focused light into the archive. Next, I explored the possibility of using barco led tiles (used I believe on the last U2 and Pink Floyd tours). They were great and intensely powerful and I would love to work with them in future but there was just too much kit for the scale of this installation. Finally, I decided to use a collection of pico projectors. I have been waiting my whole life for projectors to shrink to this tiny size. The luminance levels are beautiful in the drawers and they work very well when focused through the optic fibre.

I also did my first laser cutting, which makes so many future ideas a possibility. I modified the retro archive cabinet, loomed cables, cut optic fibre bundles with a hot blade, folded and shaped black wrap, built custom projector housings and visualised light data into viewable looping sequences.

The resulting art work is poetic, ephemeral and lyrical which rather belies the very matter of fact and persistent problem solving that was required throughout its creation. It was hard work and stressful at times but so very satisfying to see the completed piece being enjoyed by its audience.

A very big thank you to everyone who has supported me in my somewhat mad process. Sending a shout out to Richard Godbold, David Tree, Allie Gazzard, Sam Vale, Peter Brownhill, Justin Rhyme, Paul Wood, Victor Crew, Yaron Lifschitz and Peter Barwick.

Two Places – work in progress

Over the last month Two Places I Call Home has been developed to a working prototype. The work in progress was presented last week at the ISEA2013 conference in Sydney, Australia and at the Working Wonder conference at Newcastle University, UK.

Two Places I Call Home is an artwork which maps global rhythms through the real-time observation of changes in light. The relatively slow rate of change in the artwork offers an insight into the immensity of global scale and acts as a counterpoint to the fixation with speed we encounter in contemporary networked life.

The work uses two Arduino micro-computers to collect data via light sensors which record ambient light in RGB and Lux. Luminance values are sent to an online database where they are converted to hex colour. The system records real-world changes in luminance every minute and translates the values to a visual output on screen. One sensor is currently setup in Hatfield UK and the other was recording in Sydney last week. The project worked well but the code needs to be adjusted to capture a broader luminance range and the translation to hex colour needs further refinement.

The sensors will record a full year of changing light in order to capture the annual rhythm of global turning. My next task whilst I am in Australia is to find a more permanent place to house the southern hemisphere sensor. The work will be live again when the Southern sensor is in place.

Recent Drawings

I have started drawing again. There has been a year long pause since breaking my shoulder in a cycling mishap a year ago. But most Wednesday evenings now see me putting pencil and charcoal to paper again. Drawing brings a smile to my face and makes me deeply happy. It’s such a simple thing, quite focus, attentive observation and a balance between the two hemispheres of one’s mind. Beautiful.

I had wondered if my drawing would be rusty, but spending many hours a week teaching others to draw continues to improve my observational skills even when there is an enforced break.