StoryRooms at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester

Susan Collins
The Spectrascope



The Spectrascope collects an image via a digital camera at the rate of one pixel a second from a haunted manor house - South Hill Park in Berkshire, England - and transmits it to the exhibition in Manchester, live via the Internet, where it is projected onto a 6 ft screen. The image is collected pixel by pixel across the room from top left to bottom right in vertical lines. At a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels each complete image represents the previous 21.33 hours (approx) of time and is updated continuously, with peculiar changes in light and fluctuations and inevitable 'ghosts in the machine' creating a sense of suspense.

The work is also available on The Spectrascope website with online viewers able to view the image updating live as well as explore selected images from The Spectrascope archive which will be accumulating throughout the exhibition.

The Spectrascope also introduces the 'fear frequency' to the gallery. This is an audio frequency of 19hz, which is just below the range of normal hearing (infrasound), but which has been linked to distorted vision (including spectral images), discomfort, and 'irrational' fear and has been found to be present at sites of apparently haunted locations. Introducing this frequency to the gallery invites the viewer to question whether the frequency itself is creating the disturbance or whether the site of haunting is creating the frequency.

Time becomes intrinsic to the work as the previous 76,800 seconds (just under a day) are displayed pixel by pixel within a continuously updating timelapse film, caught in a single frame. Poised between the still and the moving image, the lens and the pixel, the installation explores how images can be coded and decoded using both light and time as building blocks for the work. In the Spectrascope time is counted across the room from top left to bottom right in vertical lines.

"Reversing the usual process of para-psychological field research, The Spectrascope offers up the technology itself as the space of haunting." Jeanine Griffin 2004

Pixel programming for The Spectrascope: Simon Schofield
Networking solutions: Matthew Jarvis. An earlier version of the Spectrascope was commissioned for Haunted Media, Site Gallery Sheffield in 2004




Background information

Susan Collins works across a range of media, exhibiting nationally and internationally often in public and site-specific locations.

Recent works mainly employ transmission, networking and time as primary materials, often exploring the role of illusion or belief in their construction and interpretation.
Her networked installations, include In Conversation, for WWW, street, and gallery, and Transporting Skies, a solo show which transported sky (and other phenomena) live between Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance and Site Gallery Sheffield. Online works include Fenlandia/Glenlandia a distributable networked landscape work, and the BAFTA nominated Tate in Space which was commissioned for Tate Online. Recent commissions include a wildlife surveillance system for Sarah Wigglesworth Architects's RIBA award winning Classroom of the Future; Underglow, a network of illuminated drains for the Corporation of London for winter 2005/6 and permanent works for Arts Council England South East and University College Hospital London.

Susan Collins is Head of Electronic Media at The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London.

Susan Collins
Paul Demarinis
Ken Goldberg
Paul Sermon
Cornelia Sollfrank
Tan Teck Weng
Andrea Zapp