Created by Evelina Domnitch and Evelina Domnitch, «Camera Lucida is an interactive “sonic observatory” that directly converts sound waves into light by employing a phenomenon called sonoluminescence. The project was conceived both as an artwork and as a musical instrument that allows its player to see and shape sounds while moving through space….
The Camera Lucida project began as a speculative reverie on observing sound waves with the naked eye. The idea of using a gas that would luminesce when irradiated by sound converted into voltage was very appealing to us. However, as soon as we came upon the phenomenon of sonoluminescence, it became quite clear that we had struck virgin soil. Though imbued with excitement and great potential, this path was riddled with obstacles: most of the physicists, chemists and sound engineers we consulted predicted that our project was destined to fail or that the effects would be barely perceptible to the naked eye….
In order to fully embrace the forces composing sonoluminescence, we decided that the Camera Lucida must be constructed as a finely tunable musical instrument, and this could only be accomplished by introducing several new layers of instability to the sonochemical process. The first layer of instability arises from the modulation of an ultrasonic signal by an audible one. The second layer is a multi-channel, multi-directional resonating chamber (in contrast to the customary single channel, single transducer systems), permitting one to regulate the degrees of chaos (thus introducing an additional dimension of chance).
Although we may not yet be able to unveil the precise laws governing sonoluminescence, with the help of innovative technologies, one can interact with these laws and perhaps eventually elucidate the unforeseen workings of nature. “Despite all its success, there is still much that goes on in nature that seems more complex and sophisticated than anything technology has ever been able to produce”. Technology and art need not strive to imitate nature, but instead to participate in its multifarious unfolding. Conceived as both a work of art/nature and a scientific research tool, the Camera Lucida project seeks to blur the discrepancy between such definitions of intent.»
Excerpted from Domnitch and Gelfand, «Camera Lucida: A Three-Dimensional Sonochemical Observatory» Leonardo Vol. 37, No. 5, pp. 391–396, 2004.
Artist’s website http://portablepalace.com includes video of sonoluminescence in Camera Lucida and link to Leonardo article.
Top image of «observatory» dome. Bottom image of sonoluminescent phenomena.