For William Henry Fox Talbot

For William Henry Fox Talbot (The Pencil of Nature) 2002 A site-specific installation for “Digital Responses”, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Sept-Oct. 2002.

Meigh-Andrews with Richard Monkhouse at Laycock Abbey on “For William Henry Fox-Talbot (The Pencil of Nature” (2002)

A solar (photovoltaic) panel has been installed and positioned on the roof of Lacock Abbey directly above the large latticed window, which was first photographed by William Henry Fox-Talbot in August 1835. Electricity produced from this solar panel has been harnessed to power a digital video camera focused on the window and composed to exactly reproduce the image made famous in Fox Talbot’s pioneering ‘photogenic drawing’. This digital facsimile is being relayed via an ISDN phone line to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The resultant ‘live’ digital image of the window is projected onto a sheet of translucent Perspex to present a full size ‘live’ image of the abbey window in ‘real time’. This shimmering digital replica of the oriel window at Lacock is being presented in a special display beside an original copy Fox-Talbot’s book, The Pencil of Nature (Longman,Brown,Green & Longmans London, 1844.) the worlds’ first book illustrated with photographs.

This installation establishes a complex web of interrelationships between art, technology, light, time, and physical space. There are references to the origins of photographic imaging, to the nature and significance of light and vision and its relationship to the flow of communication systems, and to the interconnecting of two geographically separate sites. The work uses “renewable energy” as a metaphor, as the daylight at the site of the abbey and passing through an historic (and culturally significant) window sets the entire work in motion. Through the installation, past, present and future are linked electronically, geographically and conceptually.

Technical Consultants: David Dorrington (Internet) and Richard Monkhouse (Solar energy).
Sponsors: Canon UK, Solar Century PLC, with support from the Bow Arts Trust and The National Trust.
Funding: The University of Central Lancashire, The Arts and Humanities Research Board and the London Institute.