Opus Criminale

An interactive time capsule that uses sound, light and mist to amplify forgotten voices in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The mosaic floors that run throughout the Victoria and Albert Museum were created in the mid 19th Century by female convicts at Woking prison. The specific details of the prisoners’ lives are lost, but using archived prison records I produced fragments of historical fiction, reimagining the tile as a listening device.

A beam of powerful white light illuminates a single mosaic tile. When the light is broken, the visitor hears a prisoner’s story emanating directly from the tile (using piezoelectric ultrasonic transducers to create a reflected beam of sound). Different tiles represent different stories. Each acts as an abstract time capsule of the ‘Opus Criminale’ women.

Demonstration film. 

Example of prison records used to produce the historical fiction script.

Installation in use.

(Assisted by Julia Brackenbury. RCA project coordinated by Eric De Visscher.)