Phantasmagoria ElectricJune, 2014 Installation
Centre for Fine Art Research, School of Art, Birmingham Institute of Art & Design. Exhibited as part of the ‘Twice Upon a Time: Magic, Alchemy and the Transubstantiation of the Senses’
This installation traces connections between electricity, the supernatural and magic and is based upon investigations conducted during Irene’s time as Research Fellow at the Bakken Museum of Electicity and Magnetism, Minneapolis USA, October 2013 and ongoing, practice based research into electricity, mesmerism and magic.
Ten salt water battery powered projectors project images into water filled chemistry flasks presented on metal and glass stands. The images used range from Charles Rabiqueau’s Le Spectacle du feu élémentaire ou Cours d'électricité expérimentale (1753) and Jean Aldini’s Essai theorique et experimental sur le Galvanisme (1804) to Hypnotism, Mesmerism and the New Witchcraft by Ernest Abraham Hart Smith (1896),The Perfect Course of Instruction in Hypnotism, Mesmerism, Clairvoyance, Suggestive Therapeutics, and the Sleep Cure: Giving Best Methods of Hypnotizing by Masters of the Science by the Psychic Research Company (1901) and finally to Magic: 1400s-1950s by Jim Steinmeyer, Ricky Jay, Noel Daniel (Editor), Mike Caveney. (2013)
The installation utilizes technology originally developed by Alessandro Volta in 1800. Each Battery is made from 36 separate units, test tubes that are held in a specifically designed wooden frame. Each tube contains a strip of copper and a strip of zinc that are wired together in series. When salt water is added to the tubes enough electricity is generated to power an LED. The LED is housed in a small copper tube with a lens at one end and a slot to take a tiny, 6mm slide.