Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Barbican Curve Gallery

There is an oddly shaped corridor in the Barbican Centre that they have turned into a free art gallery called the The Curve. It is meant to be an opportunity for artists to use the uniqueness of the shape as a catalyst for very site specific work. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. There have been plenty of exhibitions where yeah, sure, it is technically in a curve- but if that exhibition had been hung on a flat wall in a rectangular space it would have been done in exactly the same way. (Though you would be able to see all of it at once. Or, more of it at least.)

Not so for the current exhibition which is easily my favorite of the two years plus that I have been in London for.

The piece is by Robert Kusmirowski and is called "bunker" The photographs on the link above don't do it justice- but do give a bit of an idea of what it is like . It combines real WWII artifacts with some impressively detailed set design and very low lighting with no sound and uses that to create one of the spookiest, most oppressive, and poignant pieces of work I've seen in a long time.

The space is divided up into little rooms and hallways with a train track curving around the outside of the space. You can enter into a bunk room, see the rusty toilets and then wander through a dark passageway and up a short flight of stairs to an office with radio equipment that has fallen to the ground and pinned one old leather shoe to the floor. Everything- down to the dust on the floor and the heaped tools against the wall- was convincing and evocative. Haphazard and yet clearly meticulously placed.

When I entered the gallery I was the only person in the space and my feet scuffing against the floor emphasized how still the space was. Extraordinary.

I had quite a long chat with the docent as I was leaving- having been told as I entered the gallery to please try not to touch anything- I felt honor bound to let him know that, in fact, I had- but only the walls! They looked so convincingly made of cement that I needed to find out what they actually were made from (I figured they hadn't built an entire cinder block structure in the curve only to need to break it down again three months from now). He told me about a family with three children who had come in half an hour before me and had made it only about 15 feet into the exhibition before coming back out again because the children were too frightened. Frightened of war, time, or the stillness I'm not sure- but it seemed like an appropriate response.


laine said...

sounds great! so what were the walls made of?

Casitareina said...

I think: plywood with some careful spackling and painting

seriously- it was so hard to tell it wasn't cinder block without touching it.

Anonymous said...

That was very realistic looking. I never had to go in to a bunker but that was spectacular in expressing and evoking the feeling of being at war. Thanks for including the website. G&G