Collaborator: Peter Parks
A work for The Virtual Room, Zoom In Close Up: The Natural World of Peter Parks is comprised of 64 stereoscopic ‘slides’ of macro photography by renowned UK-based naturalist photographer Peter Parks. The Peter Parks archive is unique—Parks developed and patented a series of high magnification optical systems that have been used to record natural subjects in environments such as the Great Barrier Reef, Gippsland Lakes, Bermuda, and the Florida Everglades.
I conceived and directed the development of Zoom in Close Up to accompany the Science and Life Gallery at Museum Victoria. The visual display loop is twenty minutes long and is accompanied by a complex soundscape created from a matrix of different sounds attached to each image pair. The 64 high-resolution stereoscopic macroscopic images are displayed on each of the eight screens of The Virtual Room at Melbourne Museum. All eight walls screen the 64 pairs of images asynchronously and the soundscape is formed by an accumulation of the discrete sounds playing back on each screen. Other than titles/labels for each image, there is no interpretive content. The images generate an emergent abstract computer-generated soundscape from the algorithm that drives the visual playback. Participants walk around the room randomly sequencing the macroscopic views of the natural world (spores erupting from coral beds; sea creatures, insects, reptiles, carnivorous plants, and so on), enlarged to gigantic proportions for the ‘big screen’. From the perspective of the viewer, the experience could be likened to that of looking down through a microscope or walking in the world of giants—of being ‘shrunk’ down to inhabit these miniaturised natural worlds. The oscillation between this very bodily act of walking around the room observing such images at large-scale and the macroscopic views provides a dramatic tension in the work.
Visitors to the work circumambulate The Virtual Room witnessing what could be described as a mechanical or automatic wunderkammer or ‘cabinet of wonder’. This nineteenth century form of exhibition was often used to display objects of the natural world. Zoom in Close Up conjoins the techniques of microscope with that of stereoscope and subsequently offers visitors an unprecedented ability to scrutinize these hitherto unseen recordings of the natural world at highly magnified scales.