On January 7 1894, Frederic P. Ott, a laboratory assistant of W.K.L. Dickson (the inventor of the Kinetograph) stood before the world’s first movie camera and sneezed. The paradox of the forty-five frames of Record of a Sneeze is that it shows no sneeze − the droplets and globules of Ott’s explosion were too fast, too many or too small. Having eluded the Kinetograph, the sneeze has spent more than a century in representational limbo; perpetually announced, perpetually failing to appear.
In Ott’s Sneeze, novelist Lawrence Norfolk and artist Neal White have reconstructed this missing sneeze employing the most recent developments in laser, video and computer technologies. The resulting sequence of photographs of the progression of the sneeze in space is shown alongside Dickson’s original forty-five frames together with a commentary linking the two centuries.