The Electric Girl

the electric girl sparkes 2015

The Electric Girl,, Sarah Sparkes, 2015, Senate House Library. Multi media installation featuring recordings of Senate House Library Staff reading the annotations of a seance carried out at the Harry Price Laboratory of Psychical Research and held in SHL archives.

Artist Sarah Sparkes has created an installation to compliment the Voices in the Dark series of events at Senate House Library. The work is a response to research carried out at the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature, during a research fellowship undertaken by the artist at UOL between 2008 – 2011.

Stella Cranshaw AKA The Electric Girl was one of many alleged mediums, tested for authenticity, by self proclaimed Psychical researcher Harry Price (17 January 1881 – 29 March 1948). Details and ephemera from many of Prices investigations are to be found in the special collections at SHL (Senate House Library).

At his laboratory for Psychical Research, Price carried out a series of ‘controlled séances’ utilising various apparatus he had invented to test psychic powers. Notes, detailing every event that occurred during the séance, were recorded by one of the sitters and later published in a book, Stella C. An Account of Some Original Experiments in Psychical Research (Hurst & Blackett Ltd., London, 1925) now held in the special collection at SHL. Sparkes invited and directed several of SHLs’ staff in a recorded reading of the notes taken during one of the Stella Cranshaw séances. The recording, was edited together with footage of the imposing table in the DurningLawrence Library where most of the Voices in the Dark events are taking place.

A series of light bulbs and glass jars, referencing Prices; Psychic testing apparatus, illuminate the faces of famous mediums and psychical researchers associated with Harry Price. From left to right these are: Eileen J. Garrett, C.E.M. Joad, Eleonore Zugun, Margery (Mina) Crandon, Stella Cranshaw, Harry Price, Helen Duncan, Eric Dingwall, Voirrey Irving, Rudi Schneider.

With thanks to séance readers: Bianca Bristow, Richard Espley, Charles Harrowell, Jordan Landes, Kelly Marshall. Thanks to Charles Harrowell for his role as sound engineer and for setting up the recordings.

Sarah Sparkes is an artist and curator. She runs the visual arts and research project GHost (initiated with Ricarda Vidal in 2008) and has published on and regularly lectures about this subject. She has exhibited widely, both in the UK and internationally. Recent exhibitions and commissions include: MERU Art*Science Award III Edition, GAMeC, Bergamo, Italy; English Magic at New Art Projects, London; Fall of the Rebel Angels at Venice Biennale; Theatrical Dynamics at Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles, U.S.A; Overtime at London Maritime Museum and Stephen Lawrence Gallery; Haunted Landscapes at Falmouth University and AIRM2014, Romney Marsh, U.K. She is currently developing a new commission for an exhibition exploring science and magic, curated by Rob La Frenais for FACT in Liverpool.

Recent publications: The GHost Project: manifesting ghosts through visual art and creative research, chapter in The Ashgate Research Companion to Paranormal Cultures, edited by Olu. Jenzen & Sally R Munt, (Ashgte: 2013)

Entries on Ghosts and GHost Project. In: Ghosts, Spirits, and Psychics: The Paranormal from Alchemy to Zombies, edited by Matt Cardin (ABC Clio: 2015).