Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Live In Your Dreams!', The Crypt of St Pancras Church, 26th February 2014

When someone asks you if you want to wear a mask made of human hair and stalk around a crypt distributing pomegranate seeds to people there's really only one answer - YES!  This is how I wound up spending my Wednesday night; sequestered in a brick-line, corpse-vacated vault, spookily tip-toeing about, shoving a plate piled high with sticky chunks of redness under innocent noses and demanding they have a gobble. All this was in service of Live In Your Dreams!, an exhibition that aims to reimagine this crypt as a "collective dream", an underworld where subconscious symbols can frolic in the moody subterranean halflight.

This is a mini-labyrinth, a tangle of curved corridors and dusty alcoves.  This space once contained the coffins of those notable enough to be bunged underneath a central London church. They've all gone now, dispatched to wherever it is they send the dead when those in charge want to get rid of a load of dusty bones. Tonight they've been replaced with an art pic n' mix; every nook and cranny home to work covering a vast amount of mediums. This was a high quality exhibition, but though I liked damn near everything on display I don't have time to write about every little thing - so here's my personal highlights.

Susan Beattie - Loop Curtain
First up a big pile of guts.  Susan Beattie's Loop Curtain lurks just inside the entrance. Composed of sheep's intestine, ox bung and raw sheep's fleece it lies in an organic, slightly nauseating, tangle. The whole thing looks maggotty to me; especially the large ox bung (which I think is a cow's rectum/anus) sitting in the middle. A big old heap of maggots isn't exactly a pleasant sight to come across, but then we're in a place expressly designed to accommodate the process of decomposition. As gross as maggots are they're a direct manifestation of new life from death.  It's interesting to look at this place as the home of the evicted dead tenants - and what would the dead have bouncing around their skulls if not maggots?

Susie Calvert - Microcosm
Though a morbid shroud hangs over the crypt there's pinpoints of brightness glimmering in the gloom.  Susie Calvert's Microcosm  consists of pop-inflected urban environments drawn in crayon on plywood. Using a chunk of masonry as a stage they're a shattered kaleidoscope; an individual's snatched memories of a city able to be assembled in infinite configurations. When we dream of a physical place we assemble it from a jigsaw puzzle of subconscious details. A half-glance at a lamp-post, a broken window that catches our eye, the way the sunlight casts shadows across the frontage of buildings - all of these become recombined in our dreams to form a shade: our individual impression of a location. Purely on an aesthetic level it's a breath of fresh air nestled deep in the dank grey and browns of the crypt.

Boris Raux - the space divider - mushrooms version
Similarly lightening things up is Boris Raux' the space divider - mushrooms version. I met Boris before at the Experimentations show last November; there he had condensed seawater into thousands of squishy spheres, here he's created a smell dispersal device: two tubs of coloured liquid with a fan blowing across the top. A sweet smell wafts around the entire gallery, apparently the smell of cave and psilocybin mushrooms. Boris has just a touch of the mad scientist to him, marrying an idiosyncratic personal alchemy onto new kinds of technology. The piece looks vaguely like a satellite, the two pools of liquid solar panels between them.  Physically it's no great shakes; though the liquids glitter and swirl in enjoyable random fractal swirls.  But this art doesn't stop at the borders of the installation, it hangs in the atmosphere - tiny molecules of vaguely hallucinogenic liquids suspended in the air, embedding themselves within the noses of all who enter. So Boris has literally succeeded in getting inside his audience's head; impregnating us with his ideas and philosophies.

Andy Flett - Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
In terms of work that creates an immediate physical impression, there's few things in the gallery that stood out as much as Andy Flett's Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me. Dreamland can be understood as an infinite land where anything is possible, where all the impulses, fears and desires that lurk within us come out to play without supervision.  His piece, a roll of paper containing descriptions of his dreams in ever-decreasing type, is an unfiltered gate between his mind and the paper. His dreams, ranging from the banal to the bizarre, are thrown into one long stream of thought. The dreaming mind has no real concern over whether what it's putting out is fun, normal or pleasant - just spewing the disconnected detritus of what's rolling around in our brains back at us.

Mona Choo - Stuck
The final piece I particularly dug was Mona Choo's Stuck. Here the passages of the crypt become home to small, tangled up doodles of people on twisted up acrylic.  They cling to the walls, wrapped around each other with a childlike vulnerability - the plastic rolling up like one of those fortune-telling fish you find inside a Christmas cracker. The figures sway in the drafts that breeze through the tunnels, giving them a strangely quivering sort of life. One pair of tangled up people twirls in the breeze, intertwining in a vaguely Picasso-y way. This felt like the dream of the crypt itself; the spirits of the dead remaining in its memories even though their physical remains have long departed. 

If you like exploring subterranean secrets and touching the fabric of the subconscious, then Live in Your Dreams! is easily worth checking out. The work on display complements the space fantastically, breathing some life and imagination into these dusty old bricks. Aside from what I've mentioned there's a tonne of other great stuff there, so pay a visit - you won't regret it!

Live in Your Dreams finishes on the 3rd of March - opening times 12-6pm.

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