Big Tools/Small Tools

Jul 15, 2005 – Aug 28, 2005
Para/Site Art Space
4 Po Yan Street, Sheung Wan
Opening Reception
Jul 15, 2005

Kathy High, Melissa Dyne


Looking at various ways of seeing, the installation BIG TOOLS/ SMALL TOOLS combines analog and digital, macro and micro imaging, in one space to contrast modes of observation. Much like a new comer’s virgin scrutiny of an unfamiliar view, the installation BIG TOOLS/ SMALL TOOLS reveals something out of normal sight in the surroundings.

“Man does not make structures out of materials; we make large structures out of small structures. A regularity of patterning that must always link man made and nature devised or visible module associations.”  (R. Buckminster Fuller and Robert Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller, Anchor Books, Garden City, New York, 1960)

Using small video monitors with a large scale projected image of the live street scene, this collaborative installation looks at space through the use of a camera obscura lens system combined with multiple images of spy and toy video cameras.  The image of the street outside the Para Site Art Space is projected via a camera obscura onto a gallery wall. Embedded within that projected image are multiple small video monitors displaying details of the same street scene.  The camera obscura and the small video displays are live allowing interaction from the street to the space as people discover the various camera sources. The combined pictures also reveal different systems of viewing – one older optical system which is closer to the workings of the eye, and one comfortably similar to the digital barrage we see daily – to expose how we view things as opposed to what they represent.

BIG TOOLS/ SMALL TOOLS combines the works of artists, Kathy High and Melissa Dyne. This collaborative project takes place during an artist-residency for Kathy High sponsored by the Asian Cultural Council and the Art School of Hong Kong Arts Centre. Both artists are from the U.S. Dyne works with revamping old optical devices and developed the hand-crafted lens technology for the camera obscura in this exhibition. High works with digital video and has an interest in low-tech electronic imaging technology, exploring the cultural influences and meaning of these tools.

The camera obscura wall projection appears as a giant landscape within the gallery space (with the camera obscura lens housed inside an interior wall of the gallery near the front window). A number of lcd video monitors, one every few feet, are mounted into the wall, dotting the projected landscape image. The images on the lcd monitors line up with the details of the camera obscura landscape projection at various times of the day, detailing moments of the larger scene, creating an intimate mapping of the exterior space of the street. The camera obscura projection is a live image of what is happening outside projected onto the inside, a constantly moving picture in real time which has no grain, needs no development and has no permanence. The video is the detail, the underbelly, the pixilated image of the big picture. Details of sites hidden to the naked eye, normally invisible, are revealed by the close-up scrutiny of the video cameras, creating a kind of electronic linguistics, an electronic mediation of the same projected landscape from the camera obscura. These various images of the landscape are a collapse the inside-outside observation we encounter regularly through mapping systems, surveillance panels, baby monitors, telephoto lens – bringing together different spaces with enhanced modes of sensing them. BIG TOOLS/ SMALL TOOLS is a reflection of our contemporary visual landscape marking the combined information of simultaneous perceptual play and observation.


More materials are available to view on site at Para Site. 

Click here to see a full inventory of all archive materials and contact us at for enquiries, to request an appointment to view materials, and for archival materials donations.


The Archive Project is financially supported by the Project Grant of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.



about the artists

Melissa Dyne

Melissa Dyne is a visual artist who constructs mechanical, musical and optical instruments. Through the use of simple mechanics, photography, and early (often obsolete) technologies reconstructed through a contemporary artistic process, her experiments involve the creation of useful and useless inventions. Focusing on the action of laboratory she uses these inventions to “tune” the architectural space they inhabit -a cinematic performance in the spirit of mise en scene. Her work has been exhibited in numerous spaces in Mexico City and the United States.


Kathy High

Kathy High is a media artist, curator, and teacher. She produces videos and installations around histories of gender and technology, pursues inquiries into medicine/bio-science, and is engaged with the study of technology and its effects on culture through contemporary mythology and science fiction. She has received numerous awards for her video works and has been exhibited both in the U.S. and internationally. Her work was exhibited in Becoming Animal at MASS MoCA, North Adams in 2005 ( High is the Chair of the Department of Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, NY, a department specializing in multi-disciplinary electronic arts practices ( She is also the founder and editor of the critical journal, FELIX: A Journal of Media Arts and Communication, encouraging dialogue among radical media makers since 1991 (


video documentation of exhibition opening (2005/ex_13/box 23/2)