Lenses of Perception

Images of distant galaxies taken by telescopes are distorted by intervening material, an effect known as gravitational lensing. Cosmologists measure this effect to learn about the Universe. Lenses of Perception by artist Olivia Sullivan and cosmologist Constance Mahony was inspired by the different types of distortions found in gravitational lensing and the idea of useful information being contained in the imperfect.

In developing their artwork this team aimed to communicate these aspects of gravitational lensing, using materials and observations of the forest environment. They hoped to engage the audience in a cosmological perspective by anchoring the scientific research in a creative experience which became personal to the viewer.

Olivia and Constance worked with a range of mediums including illustration, animation and sound design in the development of their final artwork. The use of lenses, distortion and changing perspectives was a common theme throughout their creative process. Working with a 360° digital video camera, Olivia and Constance recorded realtime immersive sound and video in Epping and Grizedale forests. Using this source material and building on the concept of distortion as information Olivia went on the create Lenses of Perception, an immersive animated fulldome film to be screened as part of the If a Tree Falls in the Forest exhibition.

The Lenses of Perception film takes the audience on an exploratory journey through the forest. Starting with imagery and sound in its natural and recognisable state, the film slowly becomes manipulated as the distortions of gravitational lensing are progressively applied to both the sound and picture over time.

In addition, to creating this fulldome film, Olivia also developed a Lenses of Perception workshop using microscopic lenses to to initiate and inspire discussions with the audience about the ways in which lenses both large and small allow scientists to observe the world and the universe through ever expanding views. The Lenses of Perception workshops ran throughout the exhibition.

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