ARISTOTLE'S PROBLEM

Many accounts of the history of photography begin with the philosopher Aristotle noticing small, repeated projections of the partially eclipsed sun in the shade of a tree. Aristotle's problem was trying to answer many questions that arose in his mind from his observation, such as, why the gaps between the leaves had no impact on the consistent crescent forms seen projected during an eclipse. Torchia's installation reproduces the phenomenon of eclipsed sun projections inside the gallery, encouraging appreciation of these "natural," first images of the sun and the conditions that made them.

Light from a spotlight shines through an opening in the ceiling. Acting as the sun, the spotlight sends light rays onto a canopy of fabricated leaves. The light rays pass through the fan-blown branches and cast a shimmering pattern on the floor. A metal disc passing over the spotlight every six minutes causes an eclipse, of sorts. The circular projections narrow into crescents that finally turn into and pass through a total eclipse.

 

Activities: Shadows, reflections and other natural wonders

  1. Discuss solar and lunar eclipses.
    1. The cause of each
    2. Why one can be viewed with the naked eye and the other cannot
    3. The mystery that surrounds a lunar eclipse, since we are forbidden to look at it
  2. Consider nature's ability to create images of itself, with shadows and reflections.
    Discuss: How nature tells time with shadows. List instances students can recall in which nature drew a picture of itself, (a mountain, reflected in a nearby lake; a sunburn) that left an impression upon the student.

This notion can spin off into a wide variety of art projects, into a photographic investigation into images that use shadows or reflections to tell a story, or into writing projects that revolve around use of shadows and/or reflections.

[RETURN to the index] [CONTINUE to next section]