Manuel Abendroth, Jerome Decock, Els Vermang
Size: 15 * 0.65 * 0.19 m
Technique: aluminium frame, 15 custom tailored fresnel lenses, light object
The term Femto refers to a prefix of the metric system indicating a factor of 10 to the power -15. It is an even smaller scale than the one commonly designated with the term nanotechnology, and its applications range from atomic energy to the handling of photons of light and optics.
The installation transcribed this scale 'femto = 10e-15' with 15 lenses, each having its own focal point. Together they form a 15 metre long continuous frieze presenting a gradual magnification acting on the viewer's perception. The design of the integration for the research centre ' Femto at Besançon, France is based on the universal unit of the metre and its logarithmic scale.
Each lens has the dimensions of 80x100cm and consists of 54 stacked glass strips. Each edge of a glass strip is cut with a specific angle in order to redirect light; this incorporates the principle of a magnifying glass and a cylindrical linear Fresnel lens. These lenses were conceived by LAb[au] based on parametric simulations and are custom tailored. The coherency of the 15 lenses with the 10e-15th scale makes the abstract progression towards the infinitely small of the metric system tangible.
The pertinence of the fundamentals of ‘scale’ is further illustrated through the phenomenon of a typical Fresnel lense; the perceived image of an object is reversed if it is located beyond the lenses focal point. The viewer walking along the glasses is exposed to the progressive magnification, but also to a progressive fragmentary division of what she or he sees of the surrounding landscape, more or less large and reversed. As a result, the viewer is forced to reconstruct the 'image' (the understanding) of the surroundings, appealing to both perceptive as cognitive sensory information. While relating sense to sense our relationship to ‘scale’ is addressed and underlines an artistic concern regarding the aesthetics of perception and cognition.
The redirection of light by the glass strips produces further optical effects: one of the desired effects is the stratification of the observed object. It is the result of light broken by the glass strips, cutting the perceived image into slightly offset strips. This offset induces pixilation and moiré effects. Here the viewer perceives the landscape as in an impressionist painting, capturing the light and space as colourful vibrations. This impression is reinforced by the chromatic aberrations, diffraction of white light into its colour spectrum, occurring when a sunbeam hits the lenses. Here the spectral light and the moiré mask the vision of the surroundings: it's like zooming into space to see its constituent elements at the atomic scale of photons.