Thursday, October 17, 2013

Gloomy Wednesday

Sailor Girl from Entangled2 (Theatre II) by Lindsay Seers
What better way to spend a rainy day than to visit some galleries and take in some art? So, that's what I did yesterday, as the heavens opened in London. Unfortunately for me, my journey required a lot of walking between venues and I was one soggy figure on my arrival at Matt's Gallery for a viewing of Lindsay Seers' Entangled (Theatre II), a version of a piece I viewed last year in Margate.

The viewing requires an advance call to book a slot, and when I arrived early for mine, I had to wait for the previous viewing to finish, even though nobody was actually in the room. Once it was ready, I was handed a pair of headphones and beckoned into a small booth, which resembled nothing so much as a peep show booth which faced a red square viewing area. It was an odd juxtaposition for me: why the booth? The space in Margate was open between audience and the two spheres that formed the screen, so I am not clear on why she has set it up this way. In any event, there's nothing sleazy about the piece, which details testimony from two performers about their lives as male impersonators.

I am not sure if this is any different from the piece in Margate, but the space being discussed (and suggested in the viewing conditions) is the Mile End Genesis, rather than a Kent stage. Seers likes to localise her stagings of pieces, and as the Genesis used to be a live theatre before it was a cinema, she did some filming there and it gets a brief mention in the piece. I don't know if it's better or worse than what I saw in Margate, but I really like the use of the spheres to take on various characters in the stories the performers tell, from eyeballs to wombs. Most imaginative and evocative. Leaving the performance through an anteroom, I saw photos of the performers who inspired the work, Hetty King looking especially dapper as a sailor. Lucky the recipient of her signed photo!

Then it was onto the Whitechapel to see Sarah Lucas's retrospective. I felt I was entering the living room of a very eccentric relative as I opened the door to the first gallery: mobiles, wallpaper, and an array of tables, chairs, and mattresses greeted me. But, what furnishings! The mattresses were stained with food, the wallpaper was lurid newspaper headlines and the settees were made of MDF and breezeblocks. I warmed to the latter, even testing them out, once I was sure it was permitted. Sadly, taking photos is banned, a shame, because the most interesting aspect to my visit was watching the reactions and behaviours of the other visitors. Gleeful laughter, pointed fingers, frowns and grimaces were the order of the day, as everyone got to grips with Lucas's oeuvre. I found myself bemused and charmed, actually.

What is her POV, I wonder. Her use of food to convey markers of sex is well-known, but what point is she making with her giant plaster penises, which, er, popped up in an array of locations on the ground and upper floor? Though the exhibit contains warnings about graphic sexual material, I found it most unsexual, actually, more a presentation of grubby humanity. There is something a bit bleak about her equation of body parts with the detritus of human failure.

Upstairs I quite liked the brass casts, which echo the textile ones downstairs, twisted shapes perhaps recalling legs or even turds, I suppose. And I also really liked the cigarette portraits, which seems an apt form for someone who is often pictured with a fag jutting out of her mouth. An odd character, Lucas, who has abandoned London for Suffolk, but seems no less productive or more optimistic in her post-enfant terrible years.

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