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Electricity: The Spark of Life - Wellcome Collection

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by Caroline Haack (subscribe)
Fine art student and freelance writer from Paris, living in London.
Event: -
The new free exhibition at the Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection is a wonderful free museum, hosting many ambitious thematic shows that imaginatively erode the boundaries between science and art. Earlier exhibitions were about dreams, death, madness and drugs. The one at the moment is the story of the human quest to understand, unlock and master the power of electricity.

First, it starts with archives detailing the first signs of electricity. Then, advancing with time, we discover the different uses of electricity, through objects and video archives. For example, the original electric chair is shown, as well as extracts from Frankenstein in which electricity brings life and death. Finally, we see the use of electricity in our everyday life.

it is not a huge exhibition but it is still quite amazing. Indeed, the Wellcome Collection always has a great scenography. Here, some rooms are surrounded by metal bars, resembling those of electric poles. The whole space is quite dark, to emphasise the objects that are presented, maybe even to recall that this exhibition is all about electricity and light.

In between the different rooms are the work of the contemporary artists John Gerrard, Camille Henrot and Bill Morrison, each invited to make a new piece on the subject of what is, after all, the energy of life itself. John Gerrard has taken inspiration for his commission from Luigi Galvani's famous experiments into bioelectricity, which studied the effects of electricity on amputated legs of dead frogs. Bill Morrison uses historical footage from the Electricity Council archive to consider the movement and networks of electricity and how it appears in our daily lives. Finally, I wasn't able to see Camille Henrot's work as the strobe lights were not working. The website says it "considers our energy-dependent lifestyles, as well as the relationship between humans, technology, and the environment."

If you're not in London or if you missed this exhibition, you can see it later at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and Teylers Museum in Haarlem, as it is a touring exhibition.
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When: Galleries: Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-6pm; Thur 10am-8pm; Sun 11am-6pm Library: Mon-Wed, Fri 10am-6pm; Thur 10am-8pm; Sat 10am-4pm
Phone: 020 7611 2222
Where: 183 Euston Rd, Bloomsbury, London NW1 2BE
Cost: Free
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