Artistic Responses

Oculus Mundi

Irene Brown

OCULUS MUNDI is a multi video installation in the ‘quiet room’ in the basement of the Lit& Phil. The work recalls the seafaring expeditions of discovery made by early explorers of the 17th and 18th centuries. These pioneers of science provided the objects and specimens that were studied and discussed at the philosophers table and were the origins of the collections of the natural history, ethnography and antiquities museums in Newcastle.

Nestled on a shelf, in amongst large and ancient books on geography, history and travel, the reanimated image of the decommissioned St. Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay, sends out a continuous rotating beam of light, illuminating the large water filled flask that contains it. The light calls silently to the other illuminated spheres within the darkened room; five small glass flasks, each holding a tiny animated ship, all held suspended in an eternal loop of time. One ship is tossed endlessly in a storm, another looms out of a fog bank and yet another futilely attempts to row itself out of a becalmed sea. Each miniature scenario has its own sound-scape, drawing the viewer in and completing the mesmerising illusion.

The quiet room of the Lit & Phil is temporarily transformed; the dark sea of books contrasts sharply with the six illuminated orbs, glass chemistry flasks set within the bookshelves around the room. A tiny video is projected into each one of these water filled flasks, the watery lens creates an ‘other worldly’ sensation where space is distorted and time suspended.

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