Michaela Nettell attempts to capture in film the essential fleetingness and mutability of memory and daydream, creating installations that explore the potential of projection techniques to affect relations of space, optics and memory. The filmic medium has often been discussed in relation to its oneiric qualities, and Nettell's work underscores this parallel both through its complex, layered visual material, and through enigmatic subject matter.
Nettell's 2007 piece, Bathysphere, exemplifies her interest in the illusionary possibilities of surface: five suspended glass spheres act as transparent and three-dimensional screens- or rather, receptacles- for sequences of film. Just as photographs might be seen to be the pictorial traces of the past, these fish-bowl apparatus become containers that literally possess or retain the fugitive image or dream. The female subjects of the films swim underwater, blow bubbles and figure skate, expressions of fluidity and ephemerality that dissolve into the transparent materiality of the glass itself. The nebulous quality of glass is confirmed here, with the projected image causing its appearance to fluctuate between opacity and limpidity.
It is this relationship- between projected light and the materiality of glass- that forms the core of Nettell's work. Solitary, watery landscapes such as boats at sea, marshland and lakes illuminate the 'screens' to become part of them, the contours of the glass globes and the intangible moving images passing into each other to form a single, indefinite material.
While Nettell's glass spheres act as screens to be projected onto, they are also themselves able to project, as they reflect their surroundings. This doubling permits the construction of an immersive environment for the piece, wherein layers of film, illusions and realities are blended to form an always different and indeterminate installation. To enter the space of Bathysphere is to become involved in its mercurial elements and imagined forms. In so doing, the viewer is able to bring their associations to the work, forming new, brief and impermanent narratives.
In this way, glass becomes the facilitator of an affective relationship with the viewer, enabling a space for contemplation that lies between the real and reverie. By situating the glass between the facts of its transparency and its uncanny ability to become opaque Nettell is able to probe the line between what the eye sees and what the mind imagines.
**Blanche Craig, Contemporary Glass, 2008