Perceptio Lucis (2009, 2011)

Video projector, computer, custom software, painted wood. Dimensions variable.

Perceptio Lucis (Latin, "perception of light"): a sculptural form casts an impossible shadow as if the viewer’s body is the source of light. The forms are geometric primitives, sculpted from wood and metal. As one moves around the piece, what seems to be a spotlight moves too, perfectly matching its origin to the viewer’s body – yet there is no actual light source. As the illumination moves, the shadow is cast; as one gets closer or farther away, the shadow contracts and stretches. Nothing in the room is physically moving, the space is minimal and quiet and the light seemingly impossible. The piece is a quiet dialogue between body, self, object, and light – with the uncanny yet dynamic sensation of the rules of geometry dissolving.

The light is actually a video projector overhead, and the shadow is actually a real-time photorealistic rendering based on an invisible 3D model with the same geometry as the actual object. Viewer position is tracked with an overhead sensor concealed next to the projector. The spotlight is a circle of white light precisely positioned and blurred to provide the illusion that its source is the middle of the viewer’s body.

Perceptio Lucis presents an experimental embodiment of the philosophical movement of Idealism – whereby reality is literally constructed by the mind of the perceiver. The debate between metaphysical idealists and phenomenalists can be played out in real space. As we engage with the relation between the object, space, and our perception, we must acknowledge how technology destabilizes the role of perception and empiricism. In this way this piece also riffs on the history of Enlightenment, and the optimistic idea that the rational mind can shine the light of reason on any object and reveal its meaning. Here we seem to be literally shining the light of perception on the object, yet we unexpectedly see how our point of view changes reality in front of our eyes.

Using Format