media release

SFU installation unveils fusion of illusion and science

June 10, 2013

Patricia Gruben, 778.782.7881,
Martin Gotfrit, 778.782.3766,
Carol Thorbes, SFUPAMR, 778.782.3035,


Imagine walking into a multi-media environment that looks like a 19th century science lab on the outside but, on the inside, immerses you into a sensory world where science, spirituality, illusion and intuition fuse.

Patricia Gruben and Martin Gotfrit, faculty members at Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA), are mounting such an installation at SFU Woodward’s, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, at the Vancouver campus.

Gruben, a screenwriter, filmmaker and associate professor, and Gotfrit, a music composer, sound designer and professor, will unveil The Veil of Nature: Museum of Liminal Science on Friday, June 14 at a reception. It is from 6 to 9 p.m. in Room 2205, Goldcorp Centre.

The duo’s free, public, cube-shaped, multi-sensory world will remain open until July 6. A presentation in its own right, the installation is also intended to prime the public’s creative appetite for The Secret Doctrine. The play, penned by Gruben, is about the intellectual triumphs and scandals that engulfed Helena Blavatsky, a 19th century Russian occultist.

The play runs July 2 to 6 at the Goldcorp Centre.

Scholars and scientists of Blavatsky’s day alternately lauded and defamed the co-founder of the Theosophical Society in India in 1881 for injecting Hindu and Buddhist teachings into western science. Blavatsky’s ideas are laid out in her tome, The Secret Doctrine, published in 1889. Gruben’s play is named after the book.

Gotfrit composed the music and soundscape for the installation as well as the play. Toronto-based designer Marian Wihak conceived of the installation’s innovative design. The three collaborators have been working with technologists at SFU School of Interactive Arts and Technology and SCA to realize it.

“We wanted to explore the threshold between rational science and intuition and we could only go so far in the play because we have to keep the story moving. The installation allows visitors to experience for themselves some of the questions that Blavatsky posed.

“For example, we play with the illusionary nature of our world, the interchangeability of matter and energy and the cyclical rather than linear progression of time.”

Adds Gotfrit: “The sound and music are designed to offer another sensory mode and to extend visitors’ experience beyond the visual, tactile and olfactory,” adds Gotfrit. “I use a multi-channel immersive audio system and my generative music software to trigger visitors’ aural experience and respond to it subtly.”

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SFU installation unveils fusion of illusion and science

SFU School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) associate professor Patricia Gruben conceived of, designed and built The Veil of Nature: Museum of Liminal Science with the help of the following:

Marian Wihak, Toronto-based artist and set designer

Martin Gotfrit, SFU SCA professor, music composer and sound designer

Andreas Kahre, graphic designer

SFU builders and digital technologists

Funders of Veil of Nature:

The Interactive Fund, a joint program of BC Film + Media and the BC Arts Council

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council —Moving Stories: Digital Tools for Movement, Meaning and Interaction, an interdisciplinary research project.

Background information on science and spiritualism in the late 19th century, along with a signup appointment sheet for viewing the installation can be found at

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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