Curated by Nina Czegledy
Our world is filled with silent, invisible, odourless, tasteless electromagnetic radiation. It exists in various naturally occurring and manufactured forms: terrestrial magnetism, electrical storms, radio waves, microwaves, television signals and computer-generated radiation.
Aurora Universalis is an exhibition that taps into the atmosphere of electromagnetic information to make it visible, audible or tactile. The show includes Catherine Richards' Curiosity Cabinet, as well as works by Doug Back, Victoria Scott, Neil Wiernik and Paul Davies.
Aurora Universalis highlights the relationship between the free radiance belonging to organic entities and phenomena, and the invisible network of manufactured energy that emanates from communications technology and animates the data sphere.
The themes of the exhibition include the role of repetition in human, natural and technological processes and actions; the cultural significance of the detection of radioactivity; the allure and possible danger of living in an environment that is alive with information and seems to demand constant connectivity.
For some reason we have all agreed that our machines should speak to us through numerical statistics. Motionless and two-dimensional, they impoverish our ability to discern movement, activity, gesture and depth. Not too long ago the world was made available through analog indicators, dials, galvanometers and meters that translated with smooth, continuous, immediate motions. Analog meters shudder, quiver, shake, tremble, waver, shiver and twitch, just as we all do under our constantly changing, heavy emotional loads. With a glance they tell us when something is manifest. In a related manner, Black Body, which consists of a wall-mounted �whippersnapper� cord connected to a high-speed motor, acts as a meter, a full-size mirror or a second body sensitive to the unseen forces that surround us.
Back has shown his work in Vancouver, Banff, Calgary, Guelph, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax. He has shown internationally, in Holland, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Chicago, New York and Mexico City. He teaches at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto.
Persistent Invisible Fields
In our synthetic world, there is an increasing suspicion that everywhere there are invisible forces at play. From all things flow streams of the minute physical world, unseen and unfelt, but ready and willing to be observed. In this installation, the radiation meter acts as a pair of magic glasses that reveals the hidden nature of the mundane. Persistent Invisible Fields is about confirming a suspicion, about making a discovery, about revealing the true nature of the hidden. It is about the role that technology plays in exploring, creating, shaping and polluting our environment.
Davies is a graduate of the University of Toronto, Engineering Science (1991), and has attended the Ontario College of Art and Design (1994). He exhibited works at Apocalypse Gallery (1996), ArtBeat 97 (1997), the Third Rail Visual Arts Festival (1997) and the ARTLAB XXX Works in Progress (1997). He is a member of the Art and Robotics Group, which meets at InterAccess.
The spectator/participant climbs inside the cabinet. A closed circuit is created by shutting the doors, and the cabinet becomes a "safe" house, an impermeable skin protecting its resident from a sea of electronic and magnetic energy. The signals of the upper RF spectrum such as radio signals, microwave and TV frequencies prefer to travel through the metal of the box rather than our bodies inside. This energy is seeking to return to its source. The box is connected with a thick copper wire to the ground and thus the energy has a pathway back to its source.
Richards' works cross art with theoretical and primary research. The exploration of technologies' simulation of the body and subjectivity is one of the focal points of her work. A recipient of numerous awards, Richards' published texts have been translated into several languages and her works exhibited internationally. Her most recent piece, Charged Hearts (1997), which exhibited at the Power Plant (January 16 – March 15, 1997) is a companion piece to Curiosity Cabinet.
For this installation, Scott wound a continuous length of heating coil into a three-foot-round Celtic knot and mounted it vertically on a false wall of concrete board. Sitting on the floor, beneath the knot, is a three-foot round, Plexiglas container of dirt and earthworms. Buried in the soil are raw vegetable scraps from her kitchen. As the worms break down the decayed cuttings into compost, the soil gets warmer. A thermometer records the temperature and sends a signal to a circuit that increases the electrical current to the Celtic knot. As the worms feed, the Celtic knot glows red-hot. When there is no worm activity, the glow fades. Ironically, worms don't like light, so the brighter the light, the deeper the worms will burrow down into the soil.
Born in Winnipeg in 1967, Scott started making mechanically driven sculptures and kinetic installations after graduating from the New Media Department at the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1990. Scott creates simple mechatronic allegories about the soul, spirit and body.
How to become an amateur radio
The installation is constructed of two homemade FM 1-watt transmitters and four homemade FM radio receivers that broadcast a series of audio works. Each audio work is an exploration of "human-made electromagnetic activity," which uses a kind of storytelling technique combining text and sounds – a technique Wiernik has come to call "phonography." Each audio work has individual elements that become interdependent when assembled and heard in the installation space.
Wiernik is a Toronto-based media artist. He has presented his work across Canada, the US and Europe. Some of his most recent works have been part of the 3 fois trois payesage project sponsored by Gallery VU as part of a month-long residency at the Medusa Complex in Quebec City and as part of the Sur L'experience du la Ville exhibition organized by Gallery Optica Montreal.
Click here to view an archive of the original Aurora Universalis exhibition website.