Saturday, October 19, 2013


Visitors to Intervals by Ayse Erkmen; photo: Val Phoenix
Paying a visit to the Barbican yesterday, I swung by The Curve to check out the new exhibition, only to find I was too early, an unusual occurrence for me. But, when I returned after 11 am, I was greeted by an open door leading down to a screen covering the space. Hmm, I thought. This could be a short visit. I hovered uncertainly at the top of the stairs, wondering if I was allowed to venture closer. As I registered the wall text accompanying the exhibit, the invigilator drew my attention to a brochure that he said had the same text. I took the brochure, read the wall text and ventured in, as the screen lifted to reveal another.

This is Ayse Erkmen's intriguing installation, Intervals, making clever use of The Curve's position and shape as part of the backstage area of the most complex complex, The Barbican. A series of painted screens lifts and falls, drawing the visitor in and keeping one there for the duration of the randomly sequenced movements. I joked with the invigilator, "Has anyone gotten stuck?", to which he replied, "Not for long." I found it an entrancing experience, gazing on the elaborately painted screens, imagining the works that had prompted them, everything from Italian opera to modern dramas.

But, when I reached the eighth screen, I was puzzled. The brochure described it as inspired by the work of Turner, but the green leaves on the screen bore no resemblance to the brochure's description. As the screen lifted, I saw the next one over looked more Turner-esque and also depicted stairs, which would make sense if it was inspired by Turner's The Grand Staircase, From the West. Once I could get under that screen, I sought out the nearest invigilator to check, and he was none the wiser. I wondered then about the next few, as to whether they were correctly named, as well. In the end, we concluded that 8 and 9 (Turner and Morris) had been switched in the brochure, if not on the wall caption at the start. Funny nobody had noticed this before!

A bit of backstage mystery never went amiss. Other visitors didn't seem to take such a close interest in the individual screens, striding under them, or in the case of the many kids, approaching at high speed and doing a stop, drop and roll. My knees aren't up to that at present, but it was certainly a high-energy approach to art.

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