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Catherine Richards

Shroud/Chrysalis 1, 2000

Catherine Richards, Shroud/Chrysalis 1, 2000
Catherine Richards, Shroud/Chrysalis 1, 2000 Catherine Richards, Shroud/Chrysalis 1, 2000 Catherine Richards, Shroud/Chrysalis 1, 2000
Catherine Richards has explored our electromagnetic environment in her artistic practice for the last several years. Her desire to emphasize the human body's relationship to this invisible field is reflected in previous pieces such as Curiosity Cabinet at the End of the Millennium (1995) where visitors could cloister themselves away from magnetic waves by stepping inside a Faraday cage.

"[...] a device that shields its inside from electric fields generated by static electricity. Usually a complete conductive shell, it collects stray charges and, because like charges repel, stores them on the outside surface (where they can be further apart than on the inside). The electric fields generated by these charges then cancel each other out on the inside of the cage." (1)

In Shroud/Chrysalis 1 (2000), presented at the Ottawa Art Gallery from September 14 to November 19, 2000, Richards took the metaphor of shelter a step further by making the experience of protection more visceral. Rather than inviting visitors to step inside a box where movement and space are luxuries, Richards wrapped them in protective layers of copper taffeta. (2) To be wrapped, participants made an appointment during which they lay on a glass table and were enveloped in the shimmering material known for its electrical and thermal conducting capabilities. Once in the tight embrace of the transparent taffeta, participants were seemingly in a world of their own, safe from the electric charges that continually encircle everyone. For the curator Sylvie Fortin, such an experience finally grants us the privilege of being "unplugged." (3)

Angela Plohman © 2002 FDL

(1) "Glossary of Technical Terms," Museum of Science (Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.), (accessed November 30, 2001):

(2) We can invoke certain artistic practices that have emerged in the 1960s in which the tactile factor was establishing a link between the object and the participant, notably in Lygia Clark's therapeutic rituals.

(3) Fortin, Sylvie, "untitled," Catherine Richards: Excitable Tissues (Ottawa: The Ottawa Art Gallery, 2000): 5.