tue 28/05/2024

Sarah Sze: Metronome, Artangel at Peckham Rye station review - an installation of visual complexity and physical simplicity | reviews, news & interviews

Sarah Sze: Metronome, Artangel at Peckham Rye station review - an installation of visual complexity and physical simplicity

Sarah Sze: Metronome, Artangel at Peckham Rye station review - an installation of visual complexity and physical simplicity

The detritus that accumulates in our over-stimulated brains

Sarah Sze, Metronome, 2023. The Waiting Room, Peckham Rye stationCommissioned by Artangel © Sarah Sze, Courtesy the Artist. Photo by Thierry Bal

One of the great things about Artangel is the interesting sites which they seek out for the artworks they commission. The latest find is the disused waiting room at Peckham Rye station, a once gracious space with a vaulted ceiling, arched windows and two fireplaces, now ripped out. The space was later converted into a billiard hall, the sign for which is still visible on the staircase wall, but when that closed down in 1962, the room was left to rot.

Artangel always works with top notch artists, the latest of whom is the American Sarah Sze. It’s 25 years since she created an installation in the Upper Gallery at the ICA. The bric a brac of daily life – biros, matches, Q tips, plastic forks, milk cartons, batteries and pins – clung to the ceiling, while at one’s feet were mundane things like loo rolls needed to keep the arts centre running.

In her new installation, Metronome, the actual has mainly been replaced by the digital. In the centre of the darkened room, you see what looks like a huge glitter ball. On closer inspection, the shining globe turns out to be a concave structure made from a grid of slender steel rods to which are attached dozens of small sheets of paper.

These act as screens for the projection of multiple images, which include an erupting volcano; waves and choppy seas; clouds and the moon; steam rising; riggling bacteria; hands kneading dough and doing card tricks; rice being poured; a woman, an ostrich and a rhino running, a stag looking statuesque and a hawk gliding.

The writer Zadie Smith compared this experience to being in an opened-up iPhone with the images stored in its memory all exploded into three-dimensional space. Her description makes perfect sense, since most of the images are the kind of clichés that give people enormous pleasure. You could think of them as the detritus that is accumulating in our over-stimulated brains, or the digital equivalents of mundane objects like Q tips and office supplies. The accompanying sounds – a metronome and a heart beat – are similarly obvious.

The same images are projected onto the walls where they circle round in a banal yet tantalising dance. Then, suddenly, the space comes alive with thousands of birds in flight, a sight so uplifting that it jolts you out of the torpor induced by our constant exposure to visual images. And you realise that the capacity for wonder has not, as yet, been totally snuffed out.

Sarah Sze Centrifuge 2017 (Haus Der Kunst 2017) Behind the hemisphere are two towers of white projectors surrounded by wire branches bearing leaves cut from waxy white paper. Littering the white tables are the materials used to build the installation – paper, steel wire, scissors, sticky tape, pencils and so on.

For me, the most interesting aspect of Sze’s installation is the contrast between its visual complexity and the simplicity of its construction. When nearly everything can be sourced digitally from the net, her recourse to scissors, wire and cellotape feels very welcome – something to anchor you in the real world and prevent you floating off into a virtual wonderland.

Most of the images are clichés – like the detritus accumulating in our over-stimulated brains


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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