Time like a river has brought down
the light things that float on the surface,
and sunk what is weighty and solid.
Failing to imitate God,
who on the first day created only light,
and produced on that day no material effects,
every effort expended on experience
has sought not illuminating.
Pray that the human may not overshadow the divine,
that from the revelation of the ways of sense
and the brighter burning of the natural light,
the darkness of unbelief
in the face of the mysteries of God
may not arise in our hearts.
the uncertain light of the sense
for the images and rays of things to come into focus,
and therefore little is left
[text edited from Bacon’s New Organon]
As I began my Nature Lab experiment, I was interested in a contradiction I found in Bacon between at once relying on the certainty of our senses while restricting and displacing them through mechanical processes. This contradiction arises most clearly when Bacon formulates his scientific method, which begins, “to preserve sensation by putting a kind of restraint on it, but to reject in general the work of the mind that follows sensation; and rather to open and construct a new and certain road for the mind from the actual perceptions of the sense” (28). In this, Bacon emphasizes the importance of the senses in discerning certainty–here it is the mind which seems to require restriction. He continues, however, to propose that “the business [be] done … by machines” (28), therein undermining the power of the senses for reliance on machines.
Considering this alongside Bacon’s use of light as a metaphor for truth, I decided to focus my experiment around the process of photogrammetry. In photogrammetry, many images of an object are compiled to form a 3D model of the object. In photogrammetry, then, light becomes (a digital) solid–the light captured by the two dimensional photograph becomes a three dimensional (virtual) object. Therefore, photogrammetry seems to provide at once a reliance on sight, a restriction of sight through mechanical aides, and a representation of light as truth. To focus on the importance light in my experiment further, I then chose the Nature Lab’s crystals as the objects of my photogrammetry.
Before photogrammetry, crystals seem to make light solid. The crystal that I focused most of my time on was transparent, and so it seemed to embody the light that shone onto it. For this reason, I thought that using photogrammetry to document this particular crystal would provide the closest rendering of natural light, which, for Bacon, would represent the greatest truth.
In doing so, however, I was also aware of the difficulty of “photogrammetrizing” transparent or reflective objects–it often produces glitches or simply doesn’t work. So attempting to photogrammetrize light via crystals was for me a representation of the contradiction I found in Bacon, of trying to access the truth of light and sensation through its mechanical restriction.
Below are more images which illustrate my experiment and other models I produced using different crystals.
Isolated crystal from image
The photogrammetry program produces two files: one of the form and one of the material, which is mapped onto the form in a 3D modeling program. This is what the material of the primary crystal turned out to be.