21st Century Fox Sisters, 2010
Mounted at the Art Gallery of Ontario,Le Labo, centre d'arts médiatiques francophone de Toronto, and at the Elora Centre for the Arts, 21st Century Fox Sisters is an interactive space where the Fox sisters, famous mediums of the 19th Century, are reimagined as producers and directors of a multimedia spectacle. The Fox Sisters, Margaret and Katie, who arguably spearheaded the Spiritualist movement, were young girls when they began performing séances under the guidance of their sister Leah. They wielded power over their audiences with their phantasmagoric skills, earning international celebrity, and a place amongst Victorian socialites of Europe and North America. The girls were subject to the consequences of fame and upon pressure from her Catholic fiancé, Margaret publicly decried their practice as fraudulent, ultimately resulting in a fall from favour. Margaret and Katy died penniless.
Upon entry of the dimly lit enclosed space styled after a 19th century parlour room, viewers are invited to sit facing a large mirror. The Fox sisters are seen in the reflection as video apparitions conjured through the illusion of Pepper’s Ghost; it appears that the viewer is in a shared space with the spectral figures, as the sisters divulge the techniques used to craft their phantasmagoric ruse. Also seen in the reflection is an art nouveau parlour room, inhabited with paranormally animated furnishings. Using electromechanical devices, such as solenoids placed throughout the enclosed space they recreate the wall wrapping that elevated them to fame. This illusion of a shared realm between the viewer and video apparitions is further enhanced by a second mirror that is positioned behind the viewer, once again creating a mise en abyme. The lighting of the viewer and the lighting in the video are similar, blending the characters and the viewers in silhouette, creating the illusion of a shared cinematic stage.