Illuminata was created using two innovative techniques:
Kegler’s photos are an unmodified index of brilliant cast light. As the sunlight cascaded through the windows of his home studio, it refracted through transparent barriers and bounced off opaque objects in its path before projecting onto a wall. The character and orientation of the reflection morphed as the sun moved or the position of the objects changed, resulting in fluid images that are consistent in tone, but absolutely unique in shape. Every day through 6 months, the light changed and danced on the same wall but never in the same way. The photographs are an index of daily activity, but they are encoded in a way that is impossible to decipher. It was this obliqueness that called for interpretation.
Fritton’s poem is an explicit, but sometimes obtuse, quasi-scientific examination of light itself. It masquerades as abstract philosophy while generating a human narrative; it takes science as fact, not as metaphor, then re-imagines it as allegory. The poem is letterpressed in 18-point Garamond metal type – it spills over the page in thin streams that stand in stark contrast to the substantial negative space surrounding them. The negative space is filled, however, on many pages, with “phantom prints.” These phantom prints are reflections of Kegler’s photos – but in order to generate the organic forms, a special method was required.
Letterpress is often restricted to the horizontal and vertical axes, but the light undulated and curved in ways that seemed unimaginable to replicate. Instead of generating imagery on a computer, Fritton thought it was important to retain the analog aspects of letterpress and develop a way to explode and expand the grid. The answer: morticed wooden templates. The templates were created by tracing Kegler’s photos on drafting vellum (first in graphite, then in charcoal); the shapes were then transferred to oak planks. Hundreds of holes were drilled in the oak planks, faithfully following the traced shapes – each hole was exactly the size of a 10-point piece of type (approximately 5/32″). Individual pieces of type could then be dropped into the holes while on the press bed, and the organic shapes could be printed. The advantage of an analog solution quickly became clear: every letter could be adjusted independently, removed, rotated, switched out for a thinner or thicker letter to adjust the density of the image. The results were fantastic logographic mirrors of domestic luminescence.