Cabinet of Invention and Obsolescence & Personal Camera Obscura, Milpitas/I-880 Light Rail Station, Commissioned by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, 2004.
Two sculptures referencing outmoded technology engage commuting IT workers. Bronze, found objects, steel.
Transit users in Milpitas, California, are enticed to peer into the Cabinet of Invention and Obsolescence and A Personal Camera Obscura, created by lead artist T. Ellen Sollod in collaboration with Nina Zingale. When approaching the station, one first glimpses the mysterious presence of the Personal Camera Obscura, a 68” h x 46”w x 54”d bronze and steel apparatus designed for a single viewer. The piece engages pedestrians to view their too-routine surroundings from a new perspective by looking through the eyepiece and experiencing the optical effect of a technological marvel of the past — the “camera obscura” — which interprets the familiar as a muted, upside-down moving picture. The Camera is a metaphor for our experience of progress – the world often feels “upside down” as we encounter new things.
Beyond the Camera and past the shelter on the platform, one spots the Cabinet of Invention and Obsolescence. The artwork is composed of 6 precipitously stacked bronze boxes with three viewing chambers, a twist on the Wunderkammers of the 17th century. The “Wunderkammer” was a “collection of objects, a trigger to the memory, a device that let the mind wander to faraway places.” With this same intent in mind, this Cabinet of Invention and Obsolescence, rather than opening up for display as did the traditional “Wunderkammer,” reveals its contents through four peepholes. The objects within are illuminated from above by light wells. It measures 6 feet high. The cabinet’s viewing chambers loosely reference different periods of scientific inquiry. One chamber includes a collage of analog gauges; another, a variety of outmoded laboratory glass vials; the third, an abstract composition of colored acrylic rods. Taken together, they comment on the fact that invention implies obsolescence and the rapidity with which our modern technologies become novelty pieces.