In the ODD Gallery: Nicole Liao


January 21 – February 27, 2016
Opening Night: Thursday, January 21st

Artist talk at 7:30PM in the KIAC Ballroom | Reception to follow


Daily skirmishes were now being fought, no longer for territory or commodities but for electro-magnetic information, in an international race to measure and map most accurately the field-coefficients at each point of that mysterious mathematical lattice-work which was by then known to surround the Earth. As the Era of Sail had depended upon the mapping of seas and seacoasts of the globe and winds of the wind-rose, so upon the measurements of new variable would depend the history that was to pass up here, among reefs of magnetic anomaly, channels of least impedance, storms of rays yet unnamed lashing out of the sun.

– Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

Against the Day is a photo and video installation composed of found scientific drawings, photographs, models, and footage based on early records of Auroral research and documented nuclear bomb tests in outer space. In 1962, the detonation of high altitude nuclear bombs known as “Starfish Prime” resulted in an artificial extension of earth’s magnetosphere, creating stunning atmospheric lights over Honolulu in its wake. The light show that resulted from these tests reproduced the Aurora Borealis – something that has long occurred on its own over the Arctic Circle. In this doubling of the Aurora, the catastrophic is no longer simply an “Act of God”, but integrally tied to human activity.

Video footage was sourced from declassified films from the U.S. Nuclear Testing Archives and juxtaposed against records of the Aurora Borealis from the NFB documentary, “The Northern Lights”. Placed side by side, the line between cosmic phenomena and manufactured acts begins to collapse. It’s no coincidence that early research into the electrical mysteries of the Aurora Borealis is directly tied to the Space Race during the Cold War.

The exhibition addresses the nature of Doubling; the complex physical and chemical relationship of particles, radiation and light makes the Aurora Borealis and its sinister twin ideal subjects with which to explore the technology of the photograph and the moving image. Like a Science Fiction film, the Double begins to take on an apocalyptic life of its own, independent of time and space, returning again and again to haunt the present.

The exhibit seeks to understand the Aurora Borealis in terms of its relation to the science of optics and electromagnetic forces; incidentally, this complex physical and chemical relationship between particles, radiation and light in the Aurora is also the nature of the photograph, film stock, and the bomb. Like Doubles in a Science Fiction Film, recordings, simulations and images of the Northern Lights begin to take on an apocalyptic life of their own, moving independent of time and space, returning again and again to haunt the present.

– Nicole Liao, 2016


Nicole Liao was born in Calgary and currently lives and works in Toronto. She has a background in Print Media and Architecture. Her work explores representations attempting to map, record and break down real world phenomena; she is interested in exposing the rifts between data and their sources, as well as finding moments of connection between disparate events. This is her first show in Northern Canada.

Exhibition Brochure with Text by Padma D. Maitland