Over the weekend of January 26th, the Regency Ballroom will be transformed for the annual Edwardian World’s Faire & the Edwardian Ball. Two nights of old-fashioned reverie, one-of-a-kind acrobatic performances and live music.

In celebration of an era in which rotary phones and penny-farthing bicycles were the norm, both Friday and Saturday night draws patrons elaborately dressed in DIY Victorian garb and steampunk couture.

Each year, this internationally recognized affair reinvents a theme around a work from notable gothic author and illustrator, Edward Gorey. The theme of this year’s event plays off his choose-your-own-adventure tale, The Raging Tide: or, The Black Doll’s Imbroglio. 

91mj6syxq6lThe Raging Tide: or, The Black Doll’s Imbroglio

With that in mind, this year extends a special emphasis on exploration by way of interactive games and art installations.

In way of a scavenger hunt, guests are invited to wander through gallery collections with a map in hand, for the first-ever “Artful Treasure Hunt” where they’ll encounter prizes hidden among cryptic codes and complex algorithms.

As for the works on display, art curator Layil Umbralux cleverly selected artists with aesthetics bordering on both the vintage and modern, and even formulated the hunt for visitors to more carefully explore these concepts.

“Visual Art is often thought of as just decor, and since it can require a bit of intimacy to really see what all the details are about, I wanted to stimulate the attendees, to get up close and personal with the pieces,” she said. “A puzzle game seemed a great way to instigate that.”

Many of the artists work within frameworks that examine science and art alongside mechanics and technology.

cayce-serlings-mystic-seer-webLa Riccia’s steampunk fortune telling machine, “Cayce/Serling’s Mystic Seer”

Oregon engineer-turned-artist and gallery owner Steve La Riccia uniquely embodies a similar dichotomy of trades—having spent the former years of his career repairing analog devices and building airplanes, and the latter in a specialized field of photography before discovering his talent for building contraptions from industrial relics. In both respects, his success has been driven by a keen fascination for what makes things tick.

One of his latest inventions, “Cayce-Serling’s Mystic Seer,” named after an 18th Century mystic and an episode of The Twilight Zone, relays seekers their fortune for a quarter.

The electro-mechanical device was, in short, built by wiring a calculator from the 1920s to an antique library file case and creating a card ejecting machine capable of dispensing over 200 mystical outcomes.

erickelly-santosAntique photographs re-imagined in Eric Kelly’s work

Artist Eric Kelly similarly plays with artistic mediums and time pieces by fashioning curiously grim pre-World War I portrait photographs to wooden panels and metal leaf.

“I’d always thought of antique photos as kind of stuffy and boring, or too tiny and dark to really see what you were looking at, but it dawned on me they could also be evocative, strange, and surreal,” he said. “If you’ve never held a real daguerreotype in your hands and moved it around in the light, it’s hard to describe the eerie, holographic effect these images have.”

Intrigued by the ever-so-serious nature of old portraits, Kelly embarked on a three-year mission to further track down outlets from where he could source rare images before restoring, enhancing and enlarging them.
Other artists on display include Doug Rhodes, Corviid, Mark Butler and Vandegraaff Gearheardt.
corviid-installationThe Mirabilidae (colloquially known as the “WunderKreature”) by Corviid

Saturday night’s event will showcase new and returning circus and aerial acts, led by Vau de Vire Society and PARADOX Media. On Friday, the Exposition of Art, Science, Technology, and History will clear the ballroom floor to showcase kinetic exhibits with past, present, and imagined ideas of space travel and the stars.

On both nights, you can grab locally-distilled absinthe cocktails while perusing the Museum of Wonders or the “Edwardian Odditorium” of antique curiosities, or have your tarot cards read before getting lost in dance. As Edward Gorey might suggest: the choice is yours.

Edwardian Ball 
World’s Faire (Friday, January 26th, 8pm-2am)
18th Annual Edwardian Ball (Saturday, January 27th, 8pm-2am)
Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter Street, SF, $75 General Admission, Tickets