La Fée Electricité, 2007
16mm, b/w, silent, 12 min.
At the centre of events in La Fée Electricité, a fictitious 19th century chronicle, lies the advent of electric light, which was, at the time, beginning to drastically change life. It presents elements of a detective story, a genre invented by the contemporary witness Edgar Allan Poe in the mid-19th century, and tells of the electric light enthusiast, dancer Loie Fuller; anonymous eye-witnesses report on first experiments with electric light and the French Commerce Secretary’s speech for the opening of the world exhibition in Paris in 1900 is quoted. Next to these historically anchored events and re-enacted historical scenes — e.g the first photograph taken with artificial lighting that Thomas A. Edison took of his companion Charles Batchelor — fictitious events also make their way into the chronicle.
The succession of the scenes does not follow the logic of the year dates shown in pseudo-scientific diagrams before each intertitle, but rather follow a formal dramaturgy, leading from the the first raw light floods up to the decadently blinking facade of the World Exhibition’s Electricity Palace via the carbon filament light bulb. Following this path, many light sources have left their traces on the film strip, reanimated by the light of the projector lamp.
Voice Figures, 2007
In the 1880s a music teacher called Margaret Watts Hughes held several performances in London. She invented a device she called the Eidophone. Singing into the Eidophone, she could create patterns and images on its surface using her voice to vibrate watercolour paste and fine powder into forms. She was able to sing flowers; daisies, pansies and sunflowers. She extended her repertoire to landscapes and serpents. Her work attracted the interest of the scientific institutions of the day attempting to understand the relationship between the voice, sound and itsability to conjure up such manifestations of nature.
With my Eidophones I lay no claim to originality and these inventions for myself, rather I am reconstructing the obsessions behind these discoveries in myself as I work through the originalinventor’s thinking. I guess you could say this is driven by a nostalgia for a time when scientific innovation was still open to the lay-man and the utopian possibilities of these discoveries seemed tangible.
I have rebuilt the Eidophones in collaboration with the classically trained singer Esmeralda Conde Ruiz as performative devices. However for me they also operate as sculptures in their own right. They function as strange objects with a sense of arcane functionality, as well as relics to a past performance, past time, and past obsession.