Duchamp theatre

Link to project booklet

Imagine a world in which people live just one day. Either the rate of heartbeats and breathing is sped up so that an entire lifetime is compressed to the space of one turn of the earth on its axis—or the rotation of the earth is slowed to such a low gear that one complete revolution occupies a whole human lifetime... - Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams


The Duchamp theatre was a box with a viewing slit on the front. Looking through the slit revealed darkness, until the lights from the VU meter illuminated select areas of the box, giving the viewer an ever-changing and brief view of the composition of surfaces and wires. A microphone used the ambient noise around the box to create unique patterns of light on the surfaces inside.

Reading Einstein's Dreams inspired me to find a qualitative measurement of time that could be used to inform an architectural creation. I explored the ephemeral qualities of light by building a pinhole camera and creating abstracted photographs of light scattering on a surface.

Camera obscura image of white LEDs

Rather than constructing the basis for an architectural framework myself, I used the shapes created from the light as a point of departure. The result was a composition of surfaces arranged similarly to the form of the bride in Marcel Duchamp's work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-1923).

Temporal forms of light recorded as physical drawings

In exploring concepts of time registration, I had also been constructing digital VU meters which are commonly used to visualise sound levels. When connected to a microphone, the VU meters would visualize sound through light. I found that I could arrange the lights against the surfaces I created to illuminate certain parts. The theatre contrasted Duchamp's Bride work through temporality: while Duchamp waited eight years for layers of dust to accumulate on the work in order to create a permanent signature of time, the Duchamp theatre provided only fleeting temporal registrations of time through the use of light.

Exterior of the Duchamp Theatre

Looking into the Duchamp Theatre

Watch a short time-lapse video of the lights inside the Duchamp Theatre