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Babel Fiche at the Castlefield Gallery

Venue : Castlefield Gallery
Start date: 10th August 2012
End date : 30th September 2013
Visit date : 16th August, 2012
Mr Monkey using a telescope to examine a star map in Deep Field by Dave Griffiths
Mr Monkey found out that the Castlefield Gallery was showing exhibitions again, so he caught a train to Deansgate station and popped around the corner to the gallery. He was expecting to see an exhibition called Babel Fiche by Dave Griffiths.

The Babel Fiche exhibition is actually made up of two pieces, Deep Field and Babel Fiche. Both pieces develop Dave Griffith's long term interest in the use of microfiche and microdots.

Microfiche and microscopic photography was developed in the second half of the nineteenth century, when it was basically a curiosity used in novelties such as the Stanhope in which a piece of jewelry had a microscopic photograph and a fixed magnifying lens to view it through.

Mr Monkey looking at one of the star field tables in Deep Field by Dave Griffiths
Between the two world wars microfiche readers were developed, and the medium became a viable method of storing large amounts of information.

The rise of digital storage seemingly brought an end to such an old technology but the loss of digital archives after Hurricane Katrina has resulted in a resurgence in interest in microfiche.

For Deep Field [The Photographic Universe], Griffiths (with the help of an astrophysicist) mapped a 10° field of the southerly sky above the Castlefield Gallery, then web-sourced pictures of the appropriate stars and galaxies.

The results are presented as a group of tables with small holes drilled in the tops; under each hole is an illuminated photo of a star or star cluster. The pictures are very small, so magnifiers are provided on each table.

The second part of Deep Field features a star map painted on the gallery wall. The star numbers are written in very small text, so it's lucky there's a telescope to view them with. Mr Monkey enjoyed fiddling with the telescope controls, because he likes interfering (or interacting, as he insists it's called) with installations.
Mr Monkey watching the Babel Fiche video by Dave Griffiths Mr Monkey examining one of the micro-fiche used in Babel Fiche by Dave Griffiths After he'd had his fill of looking at stars, Mr Monkey watched the Babel Fiche video. In a vaguely undefined post-digital future (whatever happened to make the future post-digital, it appears to have left Beetham Tower and most of Manchester standing) two researchers independently study sheets of microfiche, peer through telescopes, wonder about the people and the society that made the microfiches, and consider the nature of history.

All the microfiches used in the video have been helpfully left in a group of fiche-readers on a nearby table, so Mr Monkey was able to study the source material after he'd watched the film.

Babel Fiche runs until September 30th 2012.

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