Saturday, 28 August 2010

Architects 1:1

'Woodshed' -  Rural Studio
Event: Architects Build Small Spaces

Venue: V&A Museum

When: Until the 30th August

Price: Free

Rating: ***

This exhibition prides itself on actually allowing visitors to interact and explore realised spaces instead of looking at technical drawings and models. There are seven buildings scattered around the V&A with two in the purpose built Porter Gallery.

Woodshed as can be seen in the photo, is as it's name describes - a wooden shed. The audience can walk through end to end. While I felt this structure was quite beautiful in it's utilitarian splendor, it had little resonance with me. It reminded me of Miroslaw Balka's 'How It Is', but didn't have nearly the same powerful impact on me.

Spiral Booths is a towering metal structure based around an internal staircase with intermittent curtained booths. This structure is confusing from the inside, it was like a house of mirrors (without the mirrors!) Entering the small booths you are either are faced with about 300 degrees of walls or a perspex window to the outside. I think where this piece comes into it's own is viewing it from the outside. You can watch people scurrying in and out of the booths, pressed against the windows, turning lights on and off. It becomes a performance, without the performers knowing.

'Ratatosk' - Helen & Hard Architects
Ratatosk is a beautiful wooden structure in the courtyard area. Six trees have been split and their branches woven together to make a kind of canopy. Stepping inside the tree on bags of bark reminded me of children's play areas, inside there are even grooves cut for you to climb in. Had it not been covered in children I would have been on it in a flash! The description even stated Ratatosk was 'reawakening our childhood memories of exploration and play'.

I must mention 'Cast Courts Room 35B' as it was the only piece that I had any strong opinion on. A large sqaure structure of beige plaster, completely blocked from the outside bar a tiny window. You were able to enter 6 at a time, without shoes. Walking down narrow corridors, the layout was confusing, walls that looked as though they should open we cast solid. Low celings then open roofs, extremely steep narrow staircases and a tree in the middle. It was a horrible space to be in, it felt so uncomfortable and so cold. I couldn't wait to leave. This wasn't a bad thing though, for architecture to have that power over a person is a credit to the architect. The piece was an exact cast of the house of a family of 8 in Mumbai.

'Beetle's House' - Terunobu Fujimori
I felt this exhibition was good, being able to explore spaces is always more interesting than looking at plans and models. I felt some pieces reacted to their environment better than others, many clashed with the space they had been placed in. I was surprised the number of pieces the revolved around staircases. I guess they have both symbolism and functional uses as well as being aesthetically quite interesting. Certainly they have been featured in many art forms whether it be M.C Escher's 'Ascending and Descending' or Grizabella's climb to kitty heaven in Cats.

It was great to see art that kids were clearly very excited about exploring. But it was unfortunate that a lot of the pieces had  a limit of 4-6 people inside at one time meaning a long time was spent queuing. I think the structures would have been effective with performances in them but I wasn't lucky enough to be there when any of these were taking place. Worth taking the look before it goes.

Friday, 20 August 2010

La Cité des Enfants Perdus

Event: The City of Lost Children

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Released: 1995

Format: DVD

Language: French

Rating: ****

If you don't know Jean-Pierre Jeunet, you really should. Director of Delicatessen and Amélie, he is fast becoming one of my favourite directors.

'The City of Lost Children' follows a distopian society where children are being kidnapped for a mad scientist intent on stealing their dreams. One of these children is the little brother of One (Ron Perlman) who sets about rescuing him with the help of Crumb (Judith Vitett) the leader of a gang of thieving children, not unlike Dodger in Oliver.

'The City of Lost Children' is a visual treat. It is as though you are looking at a kind of twisted industrial world through green tinted spectacles. It is difficult to describe the pure beauty of the world created. Endless staircases and passageways, underground and even underwater worlds are enclosed by green sea and sky. Jean-Paul Gaultier creates beautifully subtle costumes balanced by Marc Caro's stunning sets.

The cast give strong performances across the board, never have I seen so many interesting faces! The staring performance comes from Judith Vitett who delivers a performance wise beyond her years. Vitett recieved a nomination for 'Best Performance by a Young Actor' for the role.

'The City of Lost Children' is as bizarre as it is beautiful. I had to watch it twice to fully follow the story. The narrative is perhaps one of the less successful parts of this film, it is so detailed that at times it can become difficult to follow. The film doesn't provide the audience with all the answers which can be frustrating, especially for the modern americanised film audience. But if you are surpass that minute detail you will find a beautifully crafted, original film that comes highly recommended.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Edges of the World

Event: 'The Edges of the World' by Ernesto Neto

Venue: Hayward Gallery

When: Until 5th Sept

Price: £11/£9

Rating: ***

As a big fan of installation art I went to the Hayward with a kind of childish glee. The hefty ticket price (even for a student) gains you entry to the both the 'Edges of the World' and 'The New Decor' exhibitions although this post will focus on the Neto exhibition.

Climbing the staircase to the upper floors of the Hayward, a blue nylon begins to encircle you. Reaching the top you're greeted by a vast space with wooden platforms reaching into an unseen domain. However, for me this room has little depth, it is too empty and doesn't present you with anything new or particularly exciting. The picture above was taken from one of the wooden platforms which allows you to see above the nylon ceiling into a vast network of tubes.

The highlight of this exhibition was a maze of tunnels with soft holes for you to peek through, the whole space felt as though you're inside some kind of giant intestine. You can explore further, removing your shoes you climb over a raised nylon floor, roll around on a memory foam donut and press against the soft walls. For the brave amongst you there is an outdoor lido (booked separately) on one of the rooftop spaces.

The exhibition was certainly an sensory experience and somewhat immersive, but I felt it lacked depth. Neto has created an organic playground, but there simply is not enough to play with. Having explored the whole space I felt the outdoor areas seemed disconnected from the large inside space. I left feeling as though there should have been more to see, especially with the expensive entrace fee. Your thoughts appreciated.