In May 2005, after three years of research and negotiation, “Capetown: Halfway to Sydney 1788-1870”, an exhibition derived from the collections of the Brenthurst Library in Johannesburg South Africa, was staged at the Museum.
Curator Sue Hunt invited me to create a digital projection work to accompany the exhibition. The resulting two-screen synchronised projection loop was displayed in the evenings on an architectural feature of the Museum building, a glass viewing cube overlooking the plaza and city streets below.
I designed the media to match the unusual aspect ratio of the viewing cube windows, and for viewing from the street. It played every evening until midnight for the duration of the exhibition.
The project was inspired by the pioneering work of astronomer, botanist and inventor of various photographic processes John Herschel, and his wife Margaret Herschel who coloured his botanical drawings. Born in London, they lived and worked in Capetown for a few years from 1834.
The Herschels lived in a threshold period spanning the paradigm shift from the hand-drawn to the photo-chemical image. John used a half-mirror device called a Camera Lucida to create accurate pencil drawings of botanical specimens which Margaret then painted in colour from the same specimens.
On returning to England, John worked with his friend Fox Talbot on the first techniques for creating images made by the transmutation of chemicals by light. He invented the terms positive and negative, and the technique for fixing photographic images on paper.
The animated sequence includes portrait paintings of John and Margaret, scans of their original watercolours and notebooks, and contemporaneous advertisements and instructions for use of optical aides to drawing. The sequence concludes with a visual crescendo of digital photo images of South African endemic plant species originally identified or named by Herschel that are now common in gardens around the world.
The title of my work – intricacicatricatum – is derived from botanical latin, concatenating two terms meaning ‘entangled’ and ‘marked with scars’ – a reference to colonial impacts and resonances in our 21st century world.
The entire animation was generated using Apple’s Keynote software.
gary warner 2012
photography and graphics
technical systems design
Jan 2005 – May 2005