Prelude

Prelude

Prelude and Pneuma | Mary Kavanagh and Ruth Chambers
Mendel Art Gallery, Sasktoon, SK
28 August - 1 November, 1998
SAW Gallery, Ottawa, ON
10 March - 21 April, 1999

[installation (chemistry glass, steel rods, video, audio)]

Prelude is a trilogy comprised of sculptural and audio components. The installation functions as a kind of personal inventory which examines complex relationships between memory and the inscription of social and scientific codes on the body. The central collection in the work consists of 250 glass laboratory vessels inherited from Kavanagh's grandmother. Both grandparents were chemists interested in the way science can illuminate existence both empirically and spiritually. The organic chemistry laboratory set up in the basement of their large Toronto home became Kavanagh's childhood playground, a fertile space of imagination and wonder, a forbidden place of mystery and lurking danger.

Separation: until each space is walked through, a cinematic video projection of a slow walk through the house evokes absence and memory. Distillation: in her element, constructed of sharpened metal rods and glass laboratory vessels, makes reference to the past (alchemy, and the sublimated reference to medieval religious painting) as well as to the procedures of modern science as a way of understanding the world. Balance: cloak room song consists of a painted wooden mantelpiece with a laboratory scale placed on it and the barely audible sounds of a piano and footsteps, recalling the intangible, invisible nature of both music and memory.