Nicolaas Hartsoeker’s drawing of a spermatozoon from 1695 is on display in Sunderland as part of the Wonders of the Invisible World exhibition at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art. The exhibition takes its title from a treatise on witchcraft by Cotton Mather, and the notes for the show must be one of the few places where quotes from Prince Charles and Dadaist Hugo Ball have been used together.
The artists here have coaxed objects to levitate, facilitated autosuggestion, photographed apparitions, or foretold the future. Though echoing pre-scientific ideas, their approaches are curiously timely, and might collectively be described as ones of ‘irrational exuberance’. For many of the artists, their works are allegories for the workings of an intangible and mysterious world propelled by illusions and suspension of disbelief: those of the economic marketplace. As here, much of the material world seems to defy the laws of gravity, as though objects were suspended ‘in a bubble’, or else held aloft by a so-called ‘invisible hand’.
Given the intriguing nature of the exhibition it’s a shame that more of the works on view aren’t shown on the gallery site. There’s a preview of the show this Wednesday after which it will run until October 9th, 2011. See gallery details and a list of the artists here.