Talbot Carpet (Facts Relating to Optical Science)


Talbot Carpet (Facts Relating to Optical Science) 2018. Digital video projection, carpet. 600 x 399 cm. 23 minutes 41 seconds.

The work Talbot Carpet (Facts Relating to Optical Science) reworks optical experiments performed by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1836. In the course of his open-ended experimentation, Talbot identified a diffraction phenomenon that would subsequently become known as a ‘Talbot Carpet’. Based on Talbot’s description of his observations, I re-enacted these experiments using contemporary materials and technologies. These included homemade diffraction gratings and contemporary everyday materials including adhesive tape, thread, kitchen implements such as a sink strainer and an egg slicer, cardboard and flyscreen. I employed a range of light sources including ordinary daylight, data projector, LEDs, ultraviolet light and domestic light bulbs filtered through coloured cellophane. The effect was observed by means of an improvised choreography of intra-actions with/in this spatial arrangement of elements. Just as described by Talbot, the experiments produced changing bands of colour that appeared to emerge and recede from the background, moving in and out of focus, independent of focal length. The video imagery was projected at a large scale onto a carpet, making the analogy concrete. The immersive scale of the projection invites the spectator to place themselves within the thick of things rather than as a spectator external to a representation. With sustained viewing, the changing patterns and colours appear to rise up and recede, in an optical play of surface and spatiality.