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Home / Articles / Arts / The Short List /  Illusion: ...
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Monday, May 05, 2014

Illusion: Nothing is as it Seems, Renegade Princess and Gator by the Bay

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

The Hurwitz Singularity Jonty Hurwitz’s “The Hurwitz Singularity” is among the installations in Illusion.
- Photos courtesy of Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin

 1. Mind gaps

Those folks who claim to see Jesus' face in burnt toast—there's a name for that. It's called pareidoila, and it's a psychological phenomenon essentially involving people's tendency to apply significance and meaning where there is none. Seeing animal shapes in clouds or hearing secret messages in audio recordings are good examples of it.

"It's our mind trying to make sense of insignificant patterns," explains Paul Gleeson, a self-described "deception artist" who helped research and curate Illusion: Nothing is as it Seems, an exhibition that launched at the Science Gallery at Trinity College in Dublin last year and will debut for a U.S. audience Saturday, May 10, at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. :Carl Sagan says we;re hard-wired to identify faces in objects... And it can be traced back to our caveman days."

Illusion exploits these innate tendencies with 21 installations and interactive exhibits that will distort your senses, make you leave logic behind and, ultimately, blow your mind. The work blends visual art, science and magic tricks or optical and auditory illusions. For example, there's a simple installation that looks like a stack of oil cans. One of the cans has a hole in it and liquid is visibly dripping out. Or is it? Upon closer examination, you'll see that it appears as if the liquid is slowly dripping back up into the can. 

There's also a piece that uses infrared technology to make it look like little animated bugs are crawling across a screen. When someone touches the screen, though, the little bugs start crawling up their arm.

"People actually feel the bug," Gleeson says. "People react quite visually. Just the illusion of bugs was enough to convince them."

Illusion will be on view through Jan. 11. Admission is $13.

2. Brutal honesty

Why do we feed our kids Hollywood fairytales? The sugar-coated escapism doesn't prepare them for raw and often bitter adulthood. Maybe we crave the existential drama of realizing challenges don't end with a wedding but often just begin. Writer and performer Ann Marie Houghtailing seeks to explode the fairy-tale formula with her one-woman play, Renegade Princess. Houghtailing shares her most emotionally wrenching and comic experiences of marriage and post-divorce motherhood in this 75-minute show, which completed an off-Broadway run in New York. The show comes to the 10th Avenue Arts Center (930 10th Ave. in East Village) at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 9 and 10. Those with reserved tickets are encouraged to meet Houghtailing backstage starting at 6 p.m.

Where y’at?

San Diego has lots of annual festivals, but few, if any, enjoy a better setting than Gator by the Bay, which goes down every year at Spanish Landing Park, just inland from Harbor Island on North Harbor Drive. Gator is a celebration of everything Louisiana—zydeco, jazz and the blues, jambalaya, gumbo and crawfish—and the 13th iteration happens from Thursday, May 8, through Sunday, May 11. More than 85 musical acts will fill six stages, starting with Delta blues singer and guitarist Tab Benoit at 8 p.m. Thursday night. The good times start again on Friday afternoon—highlighted by blues and soul singer Janiva Magness at 8 p.m.—and Saturday and Sunday are daylong affairs. Various ticket levels are available; get details and the full schedule at

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email Kinsee Morlan.