D e b  T o d d  W h e e l e r
view a quicktime move of Stain
Deb Todd Wheeler apparition  

Can you imagine being ill, at a hospital, and praying to the Virgin Mary to heal you, and then looking up and seeing her image in a window, clear as day? Hope transcends reality, so much so that a stain in a window becomes a divine conduit. Believing is seeing. We think of our eyes as cameras, machines that passively deliver accurate visual information. But it is our desiring selves that use complex and little understood cognitive processing to interpret retinal data. At the Marion Apparition at the Milton Hospital, witnesses not only saw Mary in some condensation in a window, but myriad other images of churches, Jesus, crucifixions etc. in chimneys, trees, and bricks. Locating ourselves in the universe, and in our everyday realities, is to search for a response to our calls, whether they be driven by religion, illness, or desire. Images, whether an apparition, a Van Gogh painting, a Hubble photograph or a cloud formation, offer us tangible proof of an invisible, interior need.

In June of 2003 newspapers around the world reported Mary appeared in the chemical residue of a third floor window in a small hospital in Milton, MA, a suburb of Boston. In the first weekends of her appearance 25,000 people or more flocked to the site to pray and witness the apparition, and have created an altar below the window for prayers, donations, and flowers. The image is made from the residue of ruptured chemical seal in a double paned window. That little stain implies or provides a huge breadth of history, all this information beyond language, a fundamental story/myth of our Western world, and ultimately an experience that is beyond words.

Stain, 2003, another collaboration between Jane D. Marsching and Deb Todd Wheeler, is a video shot from below the window, standing in the crowd. Through a slow extremely close look at the apparition itself, the video wanders over the surface of the image, as if trying to see it more and more closely. In this installation the piece is experienced through a portable audio video headset that projects a 52" image ten feet in front of the viewer. Like an apparition itself, the image is haunting and elusive. The sound of conversations and descriptions of the image emit from a suspended dome shaped parabolic speaker. Listeners feel the sound in their bodies like a heartbeat and see the image as it hovers in front of them, creating an intimate and visceral experience. We chose from all the myriad conversations, moments when people described literally what they were seeing, "do you see that magenta in the bottom left?". Every person sees different things and they see different things on different days. Since the invention of the first communication technologies in the late nineteenth century, we have always suspected or been afraid that there is something lurking within the electronic devices that surround us: something more than just rational ones and zeros, something just beyond the range of our perception, that sometimes we can feel, hear, see, and even speak to… Stain offers the viewer a virtual environment filled with a ghostly scrutiny of a miracle.


PRC exhibition:

Concerning the Spirituality of Photography January 23 - March 14, 2004