2007 caravan—an inverted world

caravan tour—the inverted world

a camera obscura for the court


The Lower Manhattan Court System is a series of neoclassical structures overwhelming in scale—a visual trope of the idealization of the power of justice.  As you approach the State Supreme Court the scale of the individual body is dwarfed; diminished in the presence of—the shadow of—justice. The rhetoric of power is replete with symbolism; and depending on one’s relationship with the supreme justice of the state this experience contains a multiplicity of directives, at once sublime, and either uplifting or intimidating.




caravan tour—the inverted world  transposes the rhetorical power of the edifice of the court by first capturing and then subjecting its image to interrogation. The project proposes a different projection of justice. Through the use of a room size camera obscura, a shift in scale and inversion of the captured image is achieved—the inversion of the sign, shifts what is signified, and by implication meaning is altered (and in this case also exposed).


The camera obscura (Lat. dark chamber) is a simple box or small-darkened room into which an image of what is outside is projected using a small hole, and sometimes a simple lens, in one of the sides of the box or room. The image is always upside-down. With a small pinhole the sharpness becomes diffracted, giving a flared or windswept appearance at the edges of the image.


Below I will describe two versions of this project. The basic concept remains the same for both with the differences being dependent on two factors—one of cost and amount of funding I can achieve, and two what is legally permissible in terms of use of site and liability.


The first, and simpler version, calls for a stationary caravan, a small-darkened room, installed on site at Foley Square (either within the park or occupying a parking space on the periphery—again permit permitting).  The caravan will be converted into, as described above, a walk-in room size camera obscura. The real-time projection on the wall will be a wall size inverted State Supreme Court. Although this is actually a large projected image, in that it fits the entire interior wall, it is severely reduced in scale from the real subject located outside. The image on the wall—a Supreme Court balancing upside down on the apex of its cornice—a captivatingly beautiful image with a slightly windswept appearance at the edges, in contrast to the austere authority of the original subject as it stands on the outside of this private enclosed space.  The real timeexperience of standing within an enclosed darkened space in proximity to the actual building gives the impression of participating in clandestine activity, a reversed surveillance if you like.  Once the image of the inverted court is in the mind’s eye of the observer the outside world is forever altered. The court is henceforth perceived differently despite its seeming impervious edifice.


The second version proposes a motorized caravan (or medium sized box truck); a larger interior space to accommodate seating. The seating is securely anchored facing the projection wall—one or two rows of used theatre seats. The route is a slow circular tour of the unified downtown court system—the projection a real-time inversion of one facade passing after another—criminal court, housing court, family court, supreme court, federal court and other adjacent historic buildings. This version calls for complicated choreographing, increased liability coverage and permitting, and lastly an increased budget. This is the not surprisingly the preferred version of the project.  An inversion of the drive-in movie— a moving theatre —the perceived subject (the film as it were) remains stationary as the perceiver (the watcher) drives or passes by—the tour, a slow circumvolution repeated again and again as the audience watches and changes, watches and changes.



caravan tour—the inverted world a Hegelian world of inversion—a mirror of the phenomenology of the experience of consciousness.  As consciousness becomes conscious, as consciousness becomes conscious of the fact that it is self-conscious, we watch the silent projected image and in it we recognize our relationship to the exterior world from the point of view of an interior perspective.


Duration: two weeks

Location: circling Foley Square 


September 2007