Magic, psychology and art: get lucky at new Science Gallery show ILLUSION (video)

10 Jul 2013

Science lovers Niamh and Leo, pictured hanging out with deception artist Paul Gleeson, who researched the ILLUSION show. Image credit: Patrick Bolger Photography

Science Gallery in Dublin is about to explode with a fusion of magic, science, art and psychology. The free summer show ILLUSION is kicking off on Friday. It’s about playfully using magic and illusion to delve into how the brain works. was there this morning to watch the magicians, artists and scientists set up their interactive demonstrations. In the following video we give you a sneak preview of the show.

Kicking off on Friday and running until 28 September, the free exhibition ILLUSION: nothing is as it seems is the latest collaborative exhibition organised by the Science Gallery to bring the art of science to the public, especially younger people.

There will be a host of exhibits, including ‘The Invisible Eye’; a video-mapping structure that aims to trick the viewer’s perception; and geometric patterns fused with movement. You can even get a virtual haircut.

Is seeing believing? Can you trust your senses?

ILLUSION will be about challenging one’s perception, turning pre-conceived ideas on their head and getting people to use their senses to playfully consider how the brain works. Most importantly, it will aim to be fun and a sensory retreat from the hustle of daily life.

Housed at Trinity College Dublin, just off Pearse Street, Dublin 2, Science Gallery generally targets young adults in the 15-27 year-old bracket, but based on this morning’s preview it seems that there is going to be something for everyone in this magical show – from tiny tots to tweenies, teens, twenty and thirty-somethings and beyond. Plus it’s free.
Every time one steps into the gallery it’s a feast for the senses. There always an eclectic fusion of creators and doers wafting around the building’s airy spaces: from scientists, researchers and artists to digital lovers, kids playing with the games on display in the gallery’s shop, and people tapping away on their laptops in the open-plan café.

And today was no different. There was artists and digital and science experts converging in the gallery from all over the globe – from Michigan in the US to London in the UK and Poland and France – putting the finishing touches to their respective installations.

Maia Gorman with the installation 'Columba' by Roseline de Thelin, From France. Image credit: Patrick Bolger Photography
Maia Gorman (8) pictured interacting with the installation ‘Columba’ by Roseline de Thelin, who hails from France. Image credit: Patrick Bolger Photography

Pulling the strings together

We got to speak to a plethora of people at the Science Gallery this morning as they put together the final pieces of the show’s interactive puzzle.

ILLUSION is being curated by psychologist, author and magician Richard Wiseman. He has collaborated with the Irish deception artist Paul Gleeson to research the project. Incidentally, Gleeson alludes to himself as being the world’s youngest ‘escapologist’. He’ll be showing people around, and giving magical tours, as well as sharing some of his tricks of the trade during the exhibition.

Describing magic as an “inspiring” force for learning, Wiseman said he has worked with Science Gallery to create an exhibition that will aim to inspire and educate people of any age.

“Each piece in the show deceives the brain with either an optical, perceptual or audio illusion,” he said. “Illusions give us a greater appreciation of how we view the world and this exhibition brings us closer to understanding the magic of the mind.”

Video blast

In our video, Ian Brunswick, Science Gallery’s exhibition and events manager, gave us a quick overview of ILLUSION.

Science Gallery researcher and volunteer Jessica took us on a tour of some of the works in progress. Director of the Science Gallery, Michael John Gorman was busy overseeing how the show was coming together, but we managed to get some time with his eight-year-old daughter Maia. She eloquently explained all about ‘Delicate Boundaries’ – an exhibit where bugs crawl off the digital screen and onto your body. I kid you not. This particular exhibit could prove hard to tear people away from. We found it mesmerising.

Pictured at ILLUSION is Lucy Whitaker of the Science Gallery with the installation 'All the Universe is Full of the Lives of Perfect Creatures' by Karolina Sobecka from Poland. Image credit: Patrick Bolger Photography

Pictured at ILLUSION is Lucy Whitaker of the Science Gallery with the installation ‘All the Universe is Full of the Lives of Perfect Creatures’ by Karolina Sobecka from Poland. Image credit: Patrick Bolger Photography

Artist and designer Prof Matt Kenyon had just flown in from Ann Arbor in Michigan in the US. Despite being jet-lagged, Kenyon, who teaches art and design at University of Michigan, was hard at work putting his installation ‘SuperMajor’ together.

From observing the hoards of Science Gallery staff converging around Kenyon as he set up ‘SuperMajor’ you could tell that this particular exhibit is going to be a real show-stopper when the public gets to feast its senses on it.

Kenyon explains in the video how his installation is about overturning people’s sensory processing of world events. In this instance he is talking about fossil fuels, namely oil, and how such resources are finite. ‘SuperMajor’ is all about how all good things must come to an end.

Then we caught up with magic man Paul Gleeson. In the video he talks about magic and science, plus he carries out a live trick with yours truly.

And finally, we crashed in on composer and sound artist Nye Parry as he fused together his bird-cage installation ‘Significant Birds’. Parry stepped down from his ladder, where he was hooking up 12 hanging bird cages with loudspeakers, to talk to In the video, the London-based artist covers speech, auditory perception, what we think we hear, and illusion.

Check out the video montage here:

If you have some free time on your hands in Dublin one day over the next few months, prepare to be dazzled by ILLUSION!

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic