Turkish artist Ayse Erkmen is literally backstage, in the Barbican’s Curve Gallery, which runs behind the venue’s concert hall. Erkmen picks up the theatrical theme with an exhibition of eleven theatre backdrops – newly painted recreations of designs dating back to the nineteenth century from theatre and opera productions including Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Mikado’ and Donizetti’s opera ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’. It’s as if she’d discovered them in the dusty archives of an old theatre. There is no apparent reason for this random selection and the viewer must take it as it comes.
The cloths are hung in random sequence in the corridor-like space, and automatically raised and lowered, periodically blocking the spectator’s path. The interest is not so much in the cloths themselves but in the process of walking through them: the stop-start journey as your steps are interrupted by the falling cloth, and by the teasing reveal of other spectators standing behind the cloths as they raise and that’s it.
From a strictly artistic point of view, the viewer is invited to chose between two paths: on one hand, the viewer might consider the backdrops as works of art in themselves or, on the other hand, he or she might take the actual objects as setting a literalist dialogue with the white ‘curved’ cuve of the Curve Gallery. In either case, this work is non-sense. Having said this, we can go the Adrian Villar Rojas way and think that this is a theatrical setting of sorts (as it literally is) and that Erkmen is creating a tunnel of theatre backdrops to create a ‘suspension of disbelief’ kind of experience. It doesn’t work either. This is utter and plain bullshit.
Until January 5th at the Barbican’s Curve Gallery
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