sean mcalister
@jason bruges studio @project context @matzine @musarc @meta architecture

▪▪▪ p r o l o g u e
▪▪▪ b l o g
▪▪▪ p r o j e c t s
▪▪▪ c o n t a c t

↓↓↓ m o r e

recent articles

deeper archives


caillois + the well crafted time machine
30 March 2010

“darkness is not the mere absence of light; it has some positive quality. whereas bright space disappears, giving way to the material concreteness of objects, darkness is “thick”; it directly touches a person, enfolds, penetrates, and even passes through him. thus the “self is permeable to the dark but not to the light”; the feeling of mystery we experience at night probably stems from this.” [Caillois, 1935]

i’m reminded of the otherwise insignificant moments when i walk down the level 6 corridor and the low-penetrating evening sun triumphs in casting odd blades of pure light deep in the heart of the building. if every deviation from the earth’s surface can act as a sun dial, in a sense, the matthew building is a well crafted time-machine.

optics + historical figures

above, the vacant observatory on ballgay hill
below, a few prominent historical thinkers. they understood light before anyone else

a note: this a draft post that should have been published a long time ago

conceived the notion that light rays do not travel from our eyes, but rather from luminous sources into our eyes. reflective surfaces + the camera obscura

roger bacon
understood the principle of the rainbow

rené descartes
"And so something which I thought I was seeing with my eyes is in fact grasped solely by the faculty of judgment which is in my mind"

descartes used an ox's eye to determine that we infact see an upside down image of the world

cogito ergo sum (English: "I think, therefore I am")

finding the site
26 March 2010

in a way, my project has always been on its site.
i simply hadn't found it.
actually, i didn't known what i was looking for.
did friedrich bessel know?

condition one
the instrument is built around the total solar eclipse commencing july 16th 2186, 15:14:54

condition two
the trajectory of this significant eclipse follows a thin path across the surface of the earth. the only landfall occur in south america

condition three
to increase the chances of the instrument using/experiencing the eclipse, cloud and atmospheric interference need to be reduced. therefore high altitude is required.

condition four
the programme of the instrument suggests that a sharp change in surface inclination could aid the exit route. this could take the form of a cliff, mountainside, impact crater wall, crevasse etc...

clarifying your resistance
24 March 2010

clarifying your resistance

following on from monday's critique of my thesis project, i'm currently embarking to clarify 'that which is offering my project resistance' or a solid position on origin and process of my decision making.

the script
the stage directions
the narrative
the site
the physics of light
the human physiological restrains
the human psychological condition
the natural light
the proprioception of space
the path of the sun
the longest theoretical eclipse

[the longest a total solar eclipse can last, theoretically, is 7 minutes and 31 seconds
on July 16 2186, a solar eclipse lasting 7 minutes and 29 seconds, it is the longest solar eclipse between the dates of 2000bc and 3000ad]

the realisation of illusion
i doubt that my interest is simply in illusion
there is something special in that moment when an apparent illusion is reduced into reality - when the joy of mystery is confirmed as truth - when miracles happen before our eyes. have you ever questioned the actuality of a cantilevered thing? you say to yourself, 'it must be some sort of trick'. well it is, and that's fine. but something did become real, something impossible happened. how self gratifying it is to have been the thing that experienced the realisation of illusion.

19 March 2010

illusion is an important concept in the dialogue between light, perception and space

i've been playing with the idea of illusion. it is an idea, illusions only exist between [...]. the quoted definition below has a conflict. is illusion a misleading impression, or misapprehension of reality? i'm inclined to favour 'misapprehension' as the more accurate description - an experience accountable only to your self.

i'm not sure 'misleading impression' actually makes sense. surely impressions are highly subjective, likely-irrational-things from the outset. what in gods good name, then, is a misleading impression?

aside from the origin of the word illusion, its 'cheap' connotations and other things besides, i'm coming to warm to this descriptive noun.

something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality.
the state or condition of being deceived; misapprehension.
an instance of being deceived.
Psychologya perception, as of visual stimuli (optical illusion), that represents what is perceived in a way different from the way it is in reality.
a very thin, delicate tulle of silk or nylon having a cobwebbed appearance, for trimmings, veilings, and the like.
Obsoletethe act of deceiving; deception; delusion.

a note on the images appearing in this post.
today i experimented with a camera obscura.
it took the shape of a 1w*1d*2h metre 'hung' space, with blackout curtains draped, wrapped and slung around a suspended, square-section, aluminium frame.
i relied on clamps, pins and lab-style, miniature scaffolding.

expect more evidence to follow

18 March 2010

what does context mean?

since matriculating
190 days
16416000 seconds
4026 words for thesis
4.9248x10^15 metres distance travelled by morning light reflected off my drawing board in studio

3x10^8 metres per second is the speed of light
16.6x10^12 metres from our sun of the furthest man made object, Voyager 1
15 hours 27 minutes is how long the light reflected off my drawing board took to overtake the furthest man made object from the sun

14 March 2010

take arms!
this is nothing less than an attack on the very poetics of space!
hoards of lifeless, evenly distributed, white-wash florescence is taking over our space, day and night!
19th century paris revolted against the newly installed public, gas lighting system, being paid for out of the police budget, it was seen to illuminate the streets to help quell rebellion.
our 21st century needs to rise up against the perpetual lamping of every street, the empty, constantly-lit office blocks, the dead-space supermarkets, the flat, seemingly texture-less walls of your children's classrooms.

switch off those over-head bulbs, separate your six species of light and marvel

weep, alas, i'm not talking about light pollution, i'm talking about poison of your very soul.

[a reaction against unsettling trends to evenly light all space]

7 March 2010

1757 - 1827
william blake

biblical, allegorical imagery. in my brief exposure to blake's work i've been impressed by the sheer density of symbolism and reference in his prints and, at the same time, monumentally disappointed in the lack of insight of the human psyche. he seems entranced by the bible, but not by humanity. it is perhaps quite a worrying sidestep

recent enquiry
5 March 2010


1956 .
brodsky and utkin
soviet oppression never looked so fantastical.

1771 . 1843
joseph michael gandy  
john soane's secret weapon

1657 . 1743
ferdinando galli da bibiena
perspective explorations and theatre design. what a family


designed by sean