Ten Models of the Universe

Featuring the Endless Proverb · 2013

John Shipman, Ten Models of the Universe, 2013«I understand the parts of the universe...
it is the whole that is confusing.» — Peabody Ente

Ten Models of the Universe by the Department of Household Sciences & Advanced Proverbs featuring the Endless Proverb — John's eighth Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto project — offers possible answers to the perplexing question: We are here, but where and what is here?

The Department of Household Sciences & Advanced Proverbs uses methods of the kitchen, the basement workshop, and backyard play to construct and now, to present ten models of the universe built from platitudes with attitude, orphan socks, on-air radio, and other domestic resources.

More than 500 visitors of all ages watched, examined, listened to, played with, and assembled their own models during Nuit Blanche. Volunteer animateurs / animatrices encouraged hands-on participation, listened with empathy to alternative explanations, admired unstructured reflections, and offered very good cookies as needed.

«The projects hosted at this church are always the highlight of my Nuit Blanche experience. I took two turns reading The Endless Proverb. Sometimes grim, sometimes hilarious, always thought-provoking and hypnotic. Thank you to all the artists and helpers for creating such a unique and special experience. I can't wait to see what appears here next year.»

More visitors' comments.
Slideshow · photographs of the installation

Five theories of the universe

«Three great scientific theories of the structure of the universe are the molecular, the corpuscular and the atomic. A fourth affirms, with Haeckel, the condensation of precipitation of matter from ether — whose existence is proved by the condensation of precipitation. The present trend of scientific thought is toward the theory of ions. The ion differs from the molecule, the corpuscle and the atom in that it is an ion. A fifth theory is held by idiots, but it is doubtful if they know any more about the matter than the others.» — Ambrose Bierce, 1911

The relationship between science and the arts is fraught. Both are easy to poke fun at as Ambrose Bierce so extremely illustrates in the case of early 20th century science. The 21st century language of astrophysics and of theoretical physics both intrigues and repels non-scientists. Can art bring forward a playful storytelling that includes rather than excludes all of us from conversations about the universe?

Department of Household Sciences & Advanced Proverbs:
Domestic techniques and everyday materials

On the southeast corner of Avenue Road and Bloor Street West in Toronto stands a building, now a clothing store, which was once a part of the University of Toronto. Engraved on its west facade is «Department of Household Science.» In the name of this defunct faculty of higher learning, Ten Models of the Universe pushes a vision of household science out the front door and into the city. Offering ten models made from everyday materials and domestic techniques, we provided Nuit Blanche Toronto 2013 visitors opportunities to build their own models of the universe.

On display: Ten models of the universe

  • Endless Proverb Model of the Universe
    A continuous, 12-hour video text of thousands of proverbs from around the world shown in a 360-degree rotating projection on the walls of St. Matthew's spectacular Great Hall and read aloud from the pulpit as one 10-hour long sentence, 2013 — read a sampling in crawling and in text formats on John's blog, or catch the first hour or so of The Endless Proverb running as news-ticker style text on endlessproverb.ca.
  • Radio Mix Model of the Universe
    Five table-top work stations equipped with working, slightly-out-of-date clock radios whose audio output is mixed, amplified and output to speakers in the main sanctuary. Nuit Blanche visitors can select and change stations, 2007–2013.
  • Modified Pollock Windows with Krauss Adjustment Model of the Universe
    Three translucent drip/splash painted fabrics designed by Clara Shipman displayed on St. Matthew's 10-foot high windows, 2012–2013.
  • You, Here, There Model of the Universe
    Three large, eight-foot tall plastic panel pylons, each supporting a monitor and a DVD player repeating the words You, Here and There on a looped video, 2013.
  • Orphan Socks Model of the Universe
    A sit-down activity suitable for young children and available to all Nuit Blanche visitors where visitors can assemble newspaper-stuffed children's socks into their own models of universe then attach a tag with their name and the proposed name of their model, 2013.
  • Word Game Model of the Universe
    Visitors 10 years old and older can generate a words-and-phrases model of the universe by assembling wooden letter blocks at this standup table mounted with 21 game boards, 2013.
  • Jenkins' Almost-Empty Box Model of the Universe
    A cardboard box containing three crumpled tissue paper balls inscribed Where is Now, What is Know, and Why is So, 2012.
  • Black and Yellow Model of the Universe
    A circular structure built from knitted black and yellow strapping with knitting device, circa 2008.
  • Crocheted Hat Model of the Universe
    An asymmetric, free-form wool hat crocheted by Elisabeth Shipman who presented live demonstrations of crocheting a Model of the Universe hat at periodic intervals, 2012.
«A proverb is a ruin which stands on the site of an old story.»

Dedicated the Department of Household Science at the University of Toronto (circa 1902-1906?), Ten Models of the Universe from the Department of Household Sciences & Advanced Proverbs featuring The Endless Proverb, an independent Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto interactive multi-media project by John Shipman, Clara Shipman and Elisabeth Shipman — with Joy Shipman (graphics), Veronica Clarke-Hanik, Rosary Kwak, and Marcelle St-Amant — was presented from 6:51 pm to sunrise on 5–6 October 2013 at St. Matthew's Church, 729 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto.

With thanks to
Commercial sponsors · Ferrier Wire Goods Company Ltd., and Primavera Interior Furnishings Ltd.
Suppliers · CanaKit, Goodwill Industries, Sesco, Home Depot, Mountain Equipment Coop, New Canadians Lumber, Active Surplus, Lee Valley Tools, Rona, The Source Shop, Tap Phong Trading, Walmart, and World Sew

Special thanks also to Marcelle St-Amant, Pat Steenbergen, Dan Eylon, Wil Moll, the Department of Household Sciences & Advanced Proverbs, and the City of Toronto
Event volunteers · Andrea Beranek, Veronica Clarke-Hanik, Tony Hanik, Rosary Kwak, Sheila Moll, Clara Shipman, Elisabeth Shipman, Victoria Shipman, Emilie Shipman-Wight, Marcelle St-Amant, Susanne Tabur, Andy Soter, Jenna Teece Soter, William Teece Soter, Sonya Teece, Chloe Taft
Venue sponsor · St. Matthew's United Church with thanks also to Rev. Lauren Hodgson, Sheila Moll, Renwick Burnett, Xing Zhang, Sonya Teece

For more information about Ten Models of the Universe, please contact John.

Photos · Marcelle St-Amant