back to main


INTERACTIVE BOOK & LIGHTBOX: April 02 - March 30, 2004, exhibition at BookArtBookShop, London N1.

This interactive bookwork makes reference to the Theosophical literature, Occult Chemistry where it is claimed paranormal means were employed to perceive the constituent parts of the chemical elements. In 1895 the Theosophists, Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater began working concurrently on atomic research with scientists such as JJ Thompson, Ernest Rutherford and Marie Curie. The results of Leadbeater's and Besant's paranormal investigations were published serially as articles in the journal The Theosophist. The material was later arranged and published in three editions (1908, 1919, 1951) as a book titled Occult Chemistry. The Occult Chemists claim to have visualised 57 chemical elements out of the 78 recognised by chemistry at the time. During these visualisation sessions, verbatim notes were taken and later rendered into diagrammatical form by artists for publication (initially in the journal Lucifer in November 1895). Sir William Crookes, a member of the Royal Society, supplied many of the materials investigated. The drawings and diagrams depict multiple configurations of particles held in complex patterns. The most compelling aspect of the work is the depiction of constituent particles within the atomic nucleus even although the orthodox scientific view at the time (1895) stated that the atomic nucleus was indivisible.

For Gilchrist's interactive bookwork, the 2D representations of the chemical elements depicted in Occult Chemistry were translated into 3D images, depth rendered in a 3D software program and embedded within a series of autostereograms. The autostereograms were printed onto sheets of A4 acetate and placed as leaves within a book [right] containing a sheet of electroluminescent (EL) film built into the book body. The EL film acts as a lightbox, back-projecting light through the autostereograms. A viewer, perceiving the 3D illusions of Occult Chemistry elements within the autostereographic imagery enters into a constructed metaphor for the micro-psi vision described by Besant and Leadbeater.

Click on the thumbnail below to view an autostereogram depicting the element Phosphorus.

All images by Bruce Gilchrist

image above: postcard image showing 3D depth rendered translations of the chemical elements depicted in the Theosophical book Occult Chemistry.