And the award for the best use of space goes to A Tittle-Tattle Tell-A-Tale Heart at Humber Street Gallery. The warehouse space working as imaginatively as exhibiting artist Athena Papadopoulos. The two upper floors of the gallery have been rendered almost unrecognisable in order to house the wildly inventive mixed-media work by the Canadian artist’s first major institutional presentation in the UK for Absolutely Cultured.
The signs were looking good from the last Humber Street Gallery exhibition Place to Place, with the creation of a screening ‘room’ for the object as performance film by Suki Seokyeong Kang, the poetry and movement of which I really liked. However, the arrangement of the objects on the ground floor itself, left me cold and felt about as aesthetically pleasing as a locker room in a gym. The second floor contained work by Turkish artist Inci Eviner where the length of one wall had been given over to Reenactment of Heaven, a film reflecting on women’s place in heaven and their relationship with authority. This was a beguiling visual display, the scale and presentation suggesting a desire to create maximum drama for viewers.
“A Tittle-Tattle Tell-A-Tale Heart is like an S&M accident in a Muppet factory,’ says surrealist musician Graham Graham Beck and I, so fusing our description of the work on opening night.
“The exhibition is loosely based on her recent novel of the same title and is constructed around a selection of chapters reinterpreted into 2&3-D artworks. The novel mimics that of a detective story, inspired by films such as Sunset Boulevard and follows the narrative of the film’s protagonist “Bunny” to uncover what may have led to her downfall.”
Contributing to an extraordinary visual statement about individuality, playtime, memory and experience are purple octopoid crucifix figures encased in shiny black corsets, eye-wateringly red bodices adorned with Hooters servers’ badges and beads, with high-heels for heads.
The nursery-rhyme title may suggest the playroom and kindergarten, but scenes of toy-mageddon, objects fused together to gruesome effect speak to something else. Found on the first floor they were rechristened ‘the sex ponds’ by our group after noting the presence of the headless doll, legs akimbo, and the frog with the come-to-bed legs.
Speaking to one of the installers, the scale of the construction involved in transforming the two floors becomes clear, from the first room with the three new doors immediately stopping you in your tracks, to the floor covering blanketing the two spaces: and all the different design elements altering and redirecting the flow of movement.
Warehouse spaces can sometimes feel echoic, empty and cold with artworks seemingly miles away on opposite walls, vast expanses of nothingness in between. For A Tittle-Tattle Tell-A-Tale Heart the space does the opposite enticing the visitor in, demanding further exploration. Excitement and discombobulation await, cocooned in a world where everyday sounds have been dampened, like the effect of fallen snow, and then replaced by eerie recordings with voices, that will have you forever hunting for their source.
There is much to see within this visual feast of provocation, the allying of toys and risqué language, fetish wear and sexualised behaviours, even religious symbolism simultaneously act upon your inner child and your mature self. Interestingly the demarkation lines of what is and what is not open access, are not clearly defined. The adolescent spirit piqued I found myself breaking the ‘rules’ and stepping behind the works, becoming part of the art myself.
The curious configuration of seating including a tiny cane chair opposite a moulded plastic seat, beside a piggy stool, some with reserved signs, offer up no clue as to how or why you interact or not. Reserved for who, or indeed taking the lead from the outlandish sculptures, reserved for what? The performance element on the opening night was just as beautifully baffling. The dance intro complete with pulsing music and smoke, before the explosion of drama onto the catwalk all delivered without explanation.
A Tittle-Tattle Tell-A-Tale Heart is told in a visual language which is both provocative and nurturing, purposefully pulling at the memories, prompting the sharing of stories that form the close bonds of all our friendships. You don’t need to be a fashionista or textile guru, an intellectual or art aficionado to appreciate and relate to this new exhibition especially curated for Humber Street Gallery and Absolutely Cultured.
A Tittle-Tattle Tell-A-Tale Heart runs at Humber Street Gallery until 12 April – 30 June