In the meantime, I couldn’t keep this blog’s creative and culinary features completely separate… so I have involved some members of my family to create creative responses to this structure, and I felt that baton-shaped biscuits would be the perfect medium! They will be filming the destruction too, so check back to see the results of our endeavors, and how we feel about this structure after having attempted our own versions! And if anyone wants to submit their own, feel free…
It’s an exhibition, but it’s also a place. A space. A construction. An idea. A possibility. A moment.
The latest exhibition at the Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre is by Aeneas Wilder, simply called ‘Untitled #162’. Which is sort of what I’m trying to get at above… the title doesn’t really help to describe to you ‘what it is’. And in fact, I think that for every different person who visits one of Aeneas’ sculptures (and sculpture is probably the best way to describe it) the experience would be different.
It is a huge construction, the length and height of the gallery. As Aeneas builds with his jenga-like wooden slats, he apparently responds to the environment around him, and this particular sculpture seems to have grown even more interestingly than some his other work… it has a small entrance, which leads into a larger space which has a more narrow tunnel leading towards a bigger almost entirely enclosed space at the other end of the room. Not immediately noticeable but clearly a part of this sculpture is its lack of colour, adding to its utter simplicity yet fragility.
The first thing that occurs to me is the construction of something this big, and this precarious. Apparently it took several weeks to complete – I can’t help wondering how many times the construction had fallen down in the process, as it would take only one dislodged slat for the whole arrangement to come tumbling down! And this is the beauty of the sculpture… its transient nature and its vulnerability, like a sand sculpture that you know will be washed away, the fact that at the same time it is a protective, mesmerising enclosed space, and yet there is a hint of danger.
Its mesmerising quality comes mainly from standing on the outside, as when you gaze through the batons, your eyes struggle to focus like an optical illusion that seems to move before your eyes. The lack of colour makes it difficult to distinguish the layers, and also creates beautiful plays of light through the gaps. If you go closer, you have the impression of peeking through Venetian-blind like slats voyeuristically, and it also divides up the environment behind it, distorting people into fractured forms, like the children’s books which allow you to change the creature’s body or outfits by flipping over different horizontal strips of paper.
I cannot stop thinking as I walk around, about knocking the whole thing over. This thought completely obsesses me, knowing myself as a clumsy person, being hyper-aware of my body and my bag, and the feeling is worsened by the hazy illusion the layers of slats are creating in front of my eyes. And then there’s something else… perhaps I have been reading too much Edgar Allan Poe, but there’s the what Poe calls “perverse” and inexplicable part of human nature that surfaces in such situations, where you start to wonder what would happen if you just gently removed one of the pieces and watched it topple to the ground… which would be awful but exhilirating at the same time…
Which is why you can see my, sat comfortably against the wall admiring from afar. A friend who visited the exhibition with me however, has a different reaction, interestingly. She is a graphic design student and I can see that she is instantly intrigued by the plays of light, the patterns, the layering of shapes and reflections that she can see in the sculpture. At which point it really struck me that the beauty of this sculpture is also in the reactions it brings out of its viewers, and the way their mood can affect their response – bringing my anxieties to the surface, such a simple construction saying so much about the inner workings of the mind of those who view it.
You can see the exhibition for another 3 weeks, and on the 1st of December is the official ‘kick-down’ event which I will also be covering… the destruction of this huge but fragile construction!