Art Night describes itself as “a free contemporary arts festival that puts art into extraordinary locations around London for one night a year, encouraging the public to experience art and their city through entirely fresh eyes.” Partnering this year with Whitechapel Gallery, Art Night was on in and around East London on the 1st of July taking over all manner of locations.
As part of my mission to explore the art world, I volunteered to help out on Art Night and wound up helping with a Chapman Brothers’ installation at the London Dock’s!
Pennington Street Warehouse is a listed space a stone’s throw from Shadwell station. It is a vast, dark space. Brick arches and pillars break up the length of the room which, as a shell is very versatile. Historically, the warehouse held rum, tobacco and other goods imported into London. Now, it is in the process of being incorporated into the Bow Arts‘ Rum Factory Artist Studios, which is very exciting new development for the space.
Jake and Dinos Chapman are known for their confrontational aesthetic that aims to shock the viewer and engage their fears, often through using grotesque and violent imagery. This installation was no exception. “The Misshapeness of Things to Come” is described as a ‘fast-paced, overwhelming visual representation’ of a poem written by the brothers through collaborative and cumulative methods. Overwhelming does not even begin to describe how completely deafening this experience was. Standing on the street 20m away from the door to the exhibition, you could still hear the piercing screams which formed part of the audio, located at the opposite end of the warehouse, a good 200 metres away. Combining strobe lighting, choppily edited video of internal organs, decomposing faces and time keeping devices, along with a soundtrack featuring screaming, ticking, explosions and some rather beautiful chimes, this was possibly the most uncomfortable installation I have ever experienced. Oh, and not to mention the eyeless mannequins standing in the dimly lit space, wearing ‘the clothes of dead people’. Endlessly creepy.
The complete relentlessness battering of the senses within this installation is hard to articulate in words. The video below shows what was, in my opinion, the most bearable section of the 20 minute loop.
One of the best things about the work I’ve been doing recently with projects like Art Night is talking to the public about the art. Something I’ve noticed is that Live Art and performance pieces tend to evoke a tangible response. They spark discussion and people actually want to talk about it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think it’s because live art engages the body’s senses in multiple ways. Somehow it’s easier to articulate a response to something that involves the body, because then there is some physical feeling or sensation to talk about. The immediacy, and impermanence of live art brings something to the table that you just don’t get with static work. There isn’t always a necessity to understand, often the point is how it makes you feel. I like how accessible that makes it, it has made for some very interesting discussions lately!