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Artist CAROLINE RYE steps naked into a giant pin-hole camera at the National Portrait Gallery. Who said that seeing is believing? Words: Susanna Beaumont
For four hours for eight days, Caroline Rye is to stand perfectly still and perfectly naked. Enclosed in a giant pin-hole camera, Rye will stand to allow her body to be ‘photographed’ in a series of slo-mo self-portraits.
Rye’s timber-framed, canvas-covered pin-hole camera could easily put you in mind of an end-of-the-pier peep show. Wander into the viewing booth and peer through the viewing hole — slowly letting your eyes become accustomed to the low light levels - and it’s possible to view an image of her. But it will be no clear exposure. "There can be a lot of doubt about what you see,’ Rye says. ‘The image appears to swim backwards and forwards because the eye can’t fix it. It is on the borders of perception.’
Pin-hole cameras have been around for centuries. There is no certainty over the date of invention but descriptions of a very similar device have been found in Chinese manuscripts dating back to the 5th century BC. The principle is that when a pin-hole aperture is placed between a lit image and a screen, an inverted image will be made. In the case of Rye’s outsize pin- hole camera, her naked body will be illuminated by
“ THEM 9-23 Sep 1999
'I want people to think about the way we use photographic images as proof of something.’
Full-esure: Caroline Rye in front of her ‘shroud' self-portraits
two spotlights. In a neighbouring dark chamber, a stretch of canvas, which is painted in light-sensitive liquid emulsion, will receive an image of her body. By the end of each day, the image on the canvas will be developed by Rye in a dark room. This shroud-like canvas will then be put on display in the National Portrait Gallery.
Entitled The Turin Machine, Rye’s installation combines photography and performance. But utter the word ‘Turin’ and-thoughts immediately race to the Turin Shroud, which is believed by some to have wrapped Christ after the Desposition and to still bear his likeness. For others, the Turin Shroud is a forgery dating from the Middle Ages which was made using a contemporary variation on the pin-hole camera. It was made to provide evidence of Christ’s existence.
Rye doesn’t want to enter the debate on the authenticity of the Turin Shroud; rather she questions the ways of seeing. ‘I want people to think about the way we use photographic images as proof of something,’ says the artist who trained at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and is currently doing a PhD at Edinburgh’s Napier University. For Rye, technology often mediates the truth and our ability to question. What was once believed and unquestioned becomes disputable as technology and science cover different ground.
Rye’s self-portraits also tackle the often thorny question of artistry. ‘In a way, it is a bit of a joke,’ she says. ‘I purport to be the artist by standing in a pin- hole camera and reﬂecting light from my body.’
The Turin Machine is at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh from Fri 10-Sun 19 Sep. Caroline Rye will be in the pin-hole camera from noon-2pm and 3-5pm,
daily (not Wed 15 Sep).
Taking the pulse of the art world
IS IT A case of all talk and no action? For months there have been well- intentioned mutterings about bringing in artists to work with Enric Miralles on the new Scottish Parliament. Now Andrew Guest, director of the Scottish Sculpture Trust. has issued a press release stating concerns over the lack of progress. Part of it reads: 'There are serious concerns that the commitment to secure an integrated artistic environment is being watered down and that art will be used in a token manner.’ Time for action, surely? MEANWHILE, SUBURBIA SEEMS to be the place lots of people are thinking about, if not actually emigrating to. Not only has journalist Miranda Sawyer just published Park And Ride, a paean to the 'burbs, but at London's Photographer’s Gallery, the residential enclave is being further venerated. Blue Suburban Skies looks at the seduction of the semi and the delights of the manicured lawn. And Glasgow artist Nathan Coley is taking part, showing his work Villa Savoye - pictures of a 'show home' accompanied by a soundtrack describing Le Corbusier's famed building.
BUT DON'T FORGET the inner city. Neal Beggs is working on an on-going installation for the CCA in the corridor of Glasgow’s McLellan Galleries. Beggs is recording a series of high-rise climbs both of Munros (Scottish mountains above 3000ft) and Glasgow tower blocks over eight floors which date from the 1950s to the present day. Will the latter perhaps be named 'Beggs'?
LOOKING UP TO the skies is Edinburgh artist. Angus I-lood. In his 'Top Ten'. I-Iood includes pink sky over the Edinburgh's Tollcross. The document is produced in an on-going limited edition series by Scotland's Iain Irving: Projects. Contributions welcome, so call 01779 841311.
THE PLEASURES OF the outside world go on at the Centre For Artists Books. Launched in July and based at Dundee Contemporary Arts. its second exhibition is a celebration of the artist Richard Long. Known for his dedication to walking as a artform, the show will look at a number of his great journeys.
No place like home: Nathan Coley’s Villa Savoye