I know I enjoy a verbal ‘gush’ but, I must say, I feel especially compelled to gush about Mat Collishaw and Ron Arad’s collaborative project at the Roundhouse, Curtain Call. Sordid Earth, Mat Collishaw’s projection, was a site to behold. I (almost) felt compelled to unbutton my shirt, don a head piece made from wild flowers, frolic to the beat of the drums and skip between the curtain of projected vines and water. But I didn’t, don’t worry.
Perhaps the wild child inside of me was inhibited by the mass turn out. The opening night displayed a notably unusual crowd, not quite the Lychee Martini art crowd one would expect, but rather a more colourful and ‘real’ public body. Couples cuddled on the floor, circling children pulled mischievously on the curtain and shadowed figures chased the projected flies with their gazes. This patchwork crowd were enveloped in the installation, almost cocooned as one entire and whole human object. The air was filled with Brazilian drumming rhythms encasing the room with melodic sounds. The curtain created a visual infinity, and yet at once, conjured the safety and boundaries of a sheltered womb. This juxtaposition left the viewer feeling inextricably linked to the piece, physically bound and simultaneously removed by the oppressive repetition of the beat. The luminous shrubbery and vines were paralleled by the vertical repetition of the silicon piping, Collishaw intended these to be like ‘tendrils’. The projection followed the life span of the plants in one continuous loop. The rain pours and the flower blooms and then decomposes, like raw and exposed flesh. The scene develops from thundering shadows, which cause us to huddle defensively, to beaming sunshine, which leads us to mirror the petals and bloom with curiosity.
It is at once a structure of intense composition, a synthetic design and yet an organic form. The portrayal of beauty morphs and distorts before your eyes, set to the ethereal backdrop of a waterfall. It is a truly beautiful piece of work that is visually emotive, conceptually simple and seamlessly executed. But, from where I was standing, the true achievement of the exhibition was the entirely unpredictable and fittingly organic fusion of the public body as a reactive nucleus within the art piece. The real ‘art’ in this piece is its role as a catalyst for collective silence, fragmented noise, warm belonging. It is the unified appreciation of Collishaw’s escapist narrative and Arad’s delicate cocoon. The flocking crowd build a cinematic tension and uncontrived ‘festival’ atmosphere. I left feeling at once completely drained and imbued with creative inspiration. This shared experienced grounds the viewer in the sordid and fantastically dirty reality of our public self, sipping cider and buzzing like bees in a sticky, sweet hive, we stand as one form.
No video can compare to the energy inside the Curtain Call, BUT at least you can get a sense of the infectious murmur of the crowd, the dirty laughs, clicking camera shutters, squeaky converse soles and bleeping phones… all of which wonderfully make up the beauty of our sordid earth.