Through the representation of water splashes, Sheung Yiu contemplates the changing relationship of image and reality. The Twinkling of an Eye on view at Hippolyte Studio, suggests that scientific images and technical photography, should not be understood only as representations or pictorial surfaces, but rather worlds of their own. Sustaining them are different worldviews and philosophical formulations between seeing and knowing.
Yiu’s project title The Twinkling of an Eye* refers to British physicist Arthur Worthington’s (1852–1916) well-documented study on a splash, and simulates the process using 3D modelling software. Worthington researched the complex process of fluid before the invention of photography and devised a meticulous observation procedure to capture the splash of a drop, a process too quick for the naked eye to see clearly. The apparatus of electromagnets and mechanical parts would let a droplet of a fixed size fall from a precise height. Simultaneously a burst of light, in exceedingly short durations, would be triggered. In a dim laboratory, Worthington would rely on the intense flash to ‘freeze’ the splash long enough for the eye to detect. Entrusting the latent images pressed into his retina, he would draw out the pattern. He would repeat the procedure and adjust the system to let each new drop fall at incremental heights, until he had observed the complete process. Illustrated in his findings are series after series of perfectly symmetrical patterns.
In this era of simulation and computational visual output, the pictures on display exemplify the displacement of the human eye within conventional structures of knowledge production. Additionally, they argue that a traditional understanding of photography as a representation of the world, while valid, will no longer suffice to account for the intertwined, complex, and unreliable, relationship images have with our world. Our reality is being ever more entangled with images, yet images are increasingly detached from the experiential world and escape human comprehension.
The mass obsession with selfies and spectacles, surveillance technology, and Deepfake videos enabled by computer vision, are just some examples of the current capacity of images. Yiu situates images and machines at the same level of humans, as entities with their own agency. Furthermore, artworks on view in the gallery offer multiple readings, such as the clear acrylic sphere held by a brass tripod, which works as both the visual element of the image and as a viewing apparatus in which to observe the corrected, upright pictures.
Sheung Yiu is a Hong-Kong-born image-based artist and independent researcher based in Helsinki. His main interests lie in the increasing complexity and agency of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in contemporary digital culture. In 2019, Yiu graduated with a Master’s degree in Visual Culture and Contemporary Art at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. His work is exhibited internationally, most recently in the Guangzhou Image Triennial. When he is not taking photographs, he writes about photography. His latest project Para-images: Cultural Ideas and Technical Apparatuses Beyond the Pictorial Surface is a self-published artist book. www.sheungyiu.com
The exhibition is kindly supported by the Kone Foundation.
* The splash of a drop is a transaction which is accomplished in the twinkling of an eye, and it may seem to some that a man who proposes to discourse on the matter for an hour must have lost all sense of proportion. If that opinion exists, I hope this evening to be able to remove it, and to convince you that we have to deal with an exquisitely regulated phenomenon, and one which very happily illustrates some of the fundamental properties of fluids. (A.M. Worthington, Splash of a Drop, 1895, p.7)
The Twinkling of an Eye
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17, Sat-Sun 12-16
image: Sheung Yiu, Splash on splash, 2019
exhibition images: Eija Mäkivuoti, 2020