Tea and Table Tilting

2008 - 2009

This installation explores the intersections between fantasy and reality, and desire and deception in early documentation of Victoria parlor séances. As the spiritualist movement gained popular support during the mid-19th century, it was common to receive invitations to parties that included “tea and table-tilting.” These small private gatherings often included local mediums who caused furniture to vibrate or jump due to what they claimed was a direct communication with spirits. Drawing from photographs taken during the later half of the 19th century that attempted to prove the authenticity of these spirit encounters, this installation recreates the very real desire displayed in these images to communicate with the dead while also employing the artifice and trickery skillful mediums used to ensure this desire was fulfilled.

In “Tea and Table-tilting,” several small vignettes or theatrical sets combine hand-painted wallpaper and faux architectural elements with photographic cutouts of the séance participants. These figures, furniture pieces, and additional props appear like life-sized paper doll pieces. The spirits summoned into each space are created with sculptural elements, projected video, and digital sound, and their vivid color and mobility appear, as a means of meditating on human desire, more life-like than the rest of the sepia-toned scene.

Exhibition Venues:

Philadelphia Art Alliance, September 2010 – January 2011, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Peters Projects, October 17 – December 2 2014, Santa Fe, New Mexico