Kaleidoscope Mania

31 AUG 2022

Kaleidoscope [Greek]: «kalos», beautiful, «eidos», aspect, and «Skopein», to see.

Ever since the invention of the kaleidoscope over 170 years ago, people have been completely fascinated with the mathematical phenomena and the infinite interplay of mirrors as the by-product. This beautiful optical instrument, crafting a myriad of patterns and colours, is the self-evident inspiration behind Keith Courtney’s interactive mirror maze installation, titled Kaleidoscope.

Manifesting his curiosity into existence, this art installation began with the idea of popularising the mystery and fascination of geometry and polarization of light on a global scale back in the 1800’s. Comparable to the widespread sensation of the Rubik’s Cube which utilised spatial intuition, the kaleidoscope provoked engagement and sustained interest in the laws of optics and their illusions, soon sweeping the world with its ubiquity.

Quoted by David Brewster, the inventor himself, “No book and no instrument in the memory of man ever produced such a singular effect.” [May, 1818]

Selling no fewer than two hundred thousand devices in three months between only London and Paris, the kaleidoscope was a phenomenon on its own – bought as rapidly as they were made and could be spotted on every street.

What interested Keith in particular, were the traces which kaleidoscopes left in cultural and textual traditions, approaching the widespread sensation from a perspective of discursive activity such as fantasies, religious parables and commentaries, drawing on the parallels between science, imagination and creativity.

Some say the kaleidoscope shifted nineteenth-century visual culture, captivating the world in a new pictorial reality and testing the limits of what people thought was true and false entirely. 

The immersive Kaleidoscope installation, on display at Brisbane Powerhouse, evokes the same fascination as when the device was first invented, encouraging a dialogue between our sight and body as viewers become immersed within the optical experience.

Indulge in your kaleidoscope nostalgia and visit the installation before it’s last day on October 3rd.