Copper screening jacket by Shelagh Young, part of Domestic Science at the Pentimento Fine Art Gallery

'Domestic Science' Electrifies The Everyday


I admit, it was the name 'Domestic Science' that made me want to see this multimedia show, on now at the Pentimento Fine Art Gallery in Leslieville.

Although it takes inspiration from many things, it's partly a tribute to Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor responsible for incandescent lightbulbs, AC power, and wireless (radio) technology. Today, partly because of Tesla, electricity is everywhere -- animating, communicating, and radiating in every part of our lives. This neat little show aims to illustrate that, in the words of Tesla himself, ""Whoever wishes to get a true appreciation of the greatness of our age should study the history of electrical development."

You may remember Pentimento from a few days ago, when blogTO named it one of The Best Photography Galleries In Toronto. Now, hanging in the window are jackets made of copper screening (pictured above, and one of my favourite things in the show), and on the adjacent wall there are matching hats, all made by artist Shelagh Young. Her art lines the rest of the gallery walls as well -- big beautiful collages made out of copper wire, glass, wax, and other materials.

Her collaborator, Doug Back (also an artist, and a professor at OCAD) has built, among other things, an electromagnetic radiation detection device. It looks simple -- a thin strip of wood with a couple electronic doo-dads at the top -- but what it does is convert electromagnetic radiation into audio. Which means you can run it around the room and actually hear the electric spill from things in the room -- light switches, wall outlets, cell phones, and even your own body. Different objects make different sounds (for instance, running it over my camera resulted in a consistent low hum, except for the flash at the top, which made a high-pitched keening sound.) The result is both kind of creepy and really amazing.

There's also a performance/dance part of the show, sort of in reference to the way that electricity animates the things in our lives. Although I think you can appreciate the show without seeing one of the performances, here is a schedule, along with the dancer who will be performing:

Friday April 18, 5:30pm, Bill James
Saturday April 19, 3:00pm, Kate Story
Sunday April 20, 3:00pm, Ryan Kerr
Friday April 25, 5:30pm, Bill James
Saturday April 26, 3:00pm, Ryan Kerr
Sunday April 27 , 3:00pm, Ryan Kerr

The show runs until April 27, and you can check out the gallery's website for hours and location.


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