The Illusions of Love Stories

Artist Nichola Kinch is bringing back the physicality of images with her participatory installations. A mix of 19th and 21st century image making methods as well as her consideration of the exhibition space provides a captivating viewing experience.

The installation Love Stories is being exhibited at Fleisher Art Memorial located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA from December 4, 2015 thru January 30, 2016. Nichola is a Philadelphia artist and her work has been chosen to be included in Fleischer’s 38th Annual Wind Challenge Exhibition Series.

My first reaction from experiencing Love Stories is how the illusion of two- dimensional images is perceived in the physical space, which is a traditional gallery space. Multiples of digitally printed trees are what visually command the space. The heavy bark texture on the trees is one of the illusions that drew me into the space, with the discovery that the trees were flat. Nichola views this as the tension between fiction and reality for these images to form a narrative.

In the process of arranging the installation, Nichola considers the arrangement of the space as a theatrical stage set. Within this arrangement there is an opportunity for the viewer to engage in the act of discovery and the sense of wonderment by wandering through the placement of the trees and discovering the viewing machines.

The overall arrangement of the installation in relation to the viewing machines is derived from aspects of Nichola’s research of early photographic production and Victorian era image production. In my conversation with Nichola about her research, she referred to the Richard Balzer Collection of Victorian era visual entertainment. From this collection, she mentioned the range of her extensive investigations of pre-photographic methods. This range of image production is taken from the multiple layers of the dioramas and peep shows that influence the illusion of the perception of depth as it pertains to a visual scene.

This research is not only seen in the arrangement of the installation as a whole, but also in how these Victorian era optical toys and devices had a physicality to the control and limits of the viewers’ visual perception. Free Birds is an example of one of the two viewing devices that is included in Love Stories. Silhouettes of birds are projected on the far wall of the gallery from an overhead projector. Upon closer examination of the overhead projector, there is an inviting manual crank for the viewer to participate in the flight of the projected flock of birds. As I cranked the digitally printed lenticular animation on acetate I was producing the backdrop of the installation. My time spent animating the flock of birds was used in the beginning by grasping the idea of speed variations in which I could crank the handle of the overhead projector. Once I felt comfortable with the manual aspects my mind wandered to memories of viewing geese in the sky from a distance. My experience with Free Birds is significant to the description of specific physicality of a viewing device, along with the process of producing and consuming images within the installation.

While Nichola does use 19th and 21st century image making methods to form her artwork, these two centuries are intertwined with how the viewer considers the engagement and the pace of the experience of viewing images. These viewing machines are in contrast to how current images are produced with various digital devices and instantly consumed when presented on social media sites. Nichola states, “In direct response to this phenomenon, I have become particularly interested in the moments in which we, as viewers, become tangibly aware of image as a mediated production.”

The video that accompanies this blog post is intended to translate the experience of the installation, Love Stories, at the Fleisher Art Memorial, while including the voice of the artist, Nichola Kinch, depicting her research and making within the creative process of these specific installation pieces.

By: Carrie Ida Edinger

Carrie’s interest with new media is in interdisciplinary methods and the use of the Internet as a presentation site for evolving contemporary projects.