Refracted Space - Reassembling the cultural institution through an artistic photographic practice.


Institutional architecture tends towards the didactic. Our cultural repositories follow a familiar plan; discrete volumes presented in sequence, where the planning, design and way-finding all combine to direct us towards a particular experience of place. But society is changing, and the contemporary cultural institution remains balanced between the old and the new, trying to tell old stories in new ways, in old spaces with new technologies. There is a growing conceptual sophistication in both the users and designers of these spaces, yet the persistence of our expectation ensures that our vision of what form these spaces may take is constrained. We need to start looking at these spaces in different ways, exploring the potential for new experiences.

Photography has a history of allowing us to see the unseen, Muybridge's motion studies, or Cartier-Bresson's 'decisive moment' alter our perception of time, but it can also alter our experience of space. Atget's images of Parisian shopfronts compress layers of context into a single plane, creating new conceptual spaces in which to engage the city. Photography allows us to make visible that which is there yet unable to be occupied.

This paper offers an artistic photographic practice as a medium for reassembling traditional conceptions of interior space, providing a framework for a different way of seeing and positioning our relationship with cultural space and objects.