The unseen city and histories of Brisbane through the Camera Obscura.
In the 2015 exhibition, Cloud Land, for the Museum of Brisbane, Robyn Stacey transformed hotel rooms into dark rooms that captured a unique series of portraits of Brisbane in Australia. These portraits enfold conditions of interiority and exteriority as well as spaces that resemble the past and the present. The collapsing of time and space found in Stacey’s work is central to the analysis presented in this paper. Anthony Vidler’s reading of Deleuze’s concept of ‘the fold’ informs the analytical framework of Stacey’s work. Vidler uses the camera obscura to describe the theories presented in The Fold and he also presents a critical view on how designers have previously read and applied Deleuze’s theories to ‘architectural space.’ This paper also draws from Vidler’s concept of ‘dark space,’ described as the unconscious way we are forced to engage with the often confusing spatial experiences of contemporary built environments. This confusion leads to our experiences of the city being largely unseen.
The works presented by Stacey in Cloud Land are, for the most part, informed by her experiences of living in Brisbane during Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s authoritarian government (1968-1987). This recent history of the city is hardly present today, but Stacey finds the visible traces of the oppression experienced by many during this period through the camera obscura. Stacey’s work proffers a way to consciously engage with the city and the unseen histories that are embedded into its fabric. Additionally, through Stacey’s work we consider the placeless and benign spatial quality of contemporary hotel rooms and spaces—an example of Vidler’s ‘dark space.’
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