The Glass Delusion was the name given in the late Middle Ages and Baroque times to a form of depression. Contemporary art, artefacts and scientific objects have been brought together to tell the story of human attempts to reconcile the physical and mental worlds. More than any other material glass has the ability to combine opposites and it is this duality that is the inspiration for this exhibition.
'The Glass Delusion' was the name given in the late Middle Ages and Baroque times to a form of depression. Sufferers were obsessive, compulsive, driven by irrational fears, and imagined themselves to be made of glass, hence brittle and fragile. So pervasive was the condition that it entered world literature, philosophy and history. Cervantes wrote the novel The Glass Licentiate, Descartes mentions it as a premise to his syllogism I think therefore I am, and Charles VI of France had iron ribs sewn into his clothes to protect himself from breaking. Victims allegedly travelled padded in straw and refused to sit down fearing their body weight would fracture their buttocks.
The syndrome evokes a psychological separation between reality and imagination, between a strength and a vulnerability that we all experience at times. Glass is a barrier, yet allows light to pass through it; it magnifies and shrinks; it can be delicate as well as deadly. Its attributes are appropriated in symbolic ways: the Glass Brain and the Glass Man; mirror image, alter ego, Doppelganger, and split personality all come to mind. More than any other material glass has the ability to combine opposites and it is this duality that is the inspiration for this exhibition.
Contemporary art, artefacts and scientific objects have been brought together to tell the story of human attempts to reconcile the physical and mental worlds. Susan Hiller's hypnotic video installation, From Here to Eternity, (2008) comprises a pair of projections onto canvas that trace the pathway of a moving point through a maze; artefacts, such as Charles Babbage's scribbling notebook, in which he expresses his first thoughts on Artificial Intelligence in outlines that bounce from brain to mind and from thought into form; and scientific objects, such as Alan Bennett's Klein Bottles, which have no edges, outside or inside but are a single continuous surface.
A new commission by American artist Matt Mullican and Wearside Glass explores the artist's fascination with the visual manifestations of the relationship between information and perception. His work includes performances of the artist drawing and painting while under hypnosis.
A programme of film and video is linked to 'The Glass Delusion', presented in collaboration with Star & Shadow Cinema and Lux. Screenings take place on Weds 29th September, Thurs 30th September and Sunday 3rd October at Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle. Films include Beryl Sokoloff's My Mirrored Hope (1962) which immortalises Clarence Schmidt's House of Mirrors. Schmidt started building a labyrinthine house in Woodstock, New York, assembled from wooden window frames, mirrors and found objects, that became his life's work and which burnt down in 1968.
Joao Penalva's, The Bell-Ringer, 2004 and The Roar of the Lion, 2006, will only be shown at NOVEMBER gallery, 46 Lower Dundas Street, Sunderland, Friday 21 May - Thursday 15 July 2010.
The November gallery is open Weds-Sat, 11am -3pm
Image: Alan Bennet, Klein Bottle. Photo: the artist.
Preview: Thursday 20 May, 6-8pm
National Glass Centre
Liberty Way, Sunderland SR6 0GL
Opening hours: 10am - 5pm. Last admission 4:45pm