Sleight of mind
Hayward plays tricks
By: Charlotte Higgins
In: The Guardian 07.10.2004
Gossip, and Satan Came
Also, is a typically witty yet sinister image from the exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, which opens today..
Drawn largely from the encyclopaedic collection of illusory art made by the German film-maker Werner Nekes (nicknamed "Mr Smoke and Mirrors" by the Hayward curators), the show delves into the delightful world of magic lanterns, zoetropes, puzzle pictures and flickbooks - as well as arcane devices, from the wonderfully named phenakistiscopes, praxinoscopes and coptographs, to mysterious harlequinades, myographs and thaumatropes.
It brings to light the great feats of showmanship that gripped audiences through-out Europe before film's domination: the flickering, candlelit delight of magic-lantern shows; the spectacle of phantasmagoria in which sinister creatures were projected on to smoke
and combined with tricks and pyrotechnics; the wonder of the camera obscura.
But it is also about the place where philosophy, science and entertainment meet. Many of these objects and images are "philosophical toys" with which the limits of human perception can be playfully tested.
Some, on the other hand, are purest titillation: such as the pretty 18th-century lady with the pink bows in her hair, and a yellow-and-red-striped dress which lifts up to reveal just what little lies beneath.