I arrived at Spike Island today. A suitcase, a bag, another bag. The studio door is closed behind me now—what a wonderful thing, a studio with a door you can close—and everything is unpacked onto the tables and the shelves and the floor. As planned I spent the afternoon working with the camera lucida, and left an audio recorder on while I worked so I could capture the process and begin to grope towards some observations:
"I'm looking down at the page. Straight down vertically. And just ahead of my eye, my right eye, is a prism mounted on a support. The prism will stay still [pause] and I'm going to move my eye forward [pause] slowly slowly slowly, always looking down, until the prism is positioned exactly between my eye and the page. At this point what appears, sharp, in focus, and exactly, is an image of the object I've positioned directly in front of me. The image is at ninety degrees from the object. It's flat on the page as though the page were a screen, and if the object were moving, its image would move.
"In fact I can see things that are moving on the surface of the page, just beside the image of the object. These things are my fingers and the pencil tip. I move them to test—to prove—that not just still images but movement can be projected onto the page in this way [pause] before I realize that of course my fingers [pause] and the tip of my pencil are not projected onto the page at all, but are rather directly there, sitting horizontally on the page, and that my eye is seeing these directly, rather than by means of the prism.
"Binocular vision allows this magic. This object, the pencil, the fingertips, the page, these things all appear flat on the table before me, each of them real, each of them on the table before me in a different way. And I can make these things interact. The pencil leaves marks. [pause] I can move the pencil. I can watch my fingertips move, and move the pencil as I begin to draw the outline of the object onto the page. If I stay very still, this outline perfectly fits the object [pause] provided I stay very still and moreover provided I continue to use the vision of my eyes in the same way. And almost immediately I begin to focus on the paper, and it's lost, and I see nothing but the beginning of a drawing, the outline, and not the object at all."