At first glance, Thamesis: Landscapes From An Imagined City, looked like an art exhibition but actually delivered a great deal more. Digital artist Ashram J Pure has taken images of London’s well-known buildings and twisted them together to create a new London which is by turns futuristic and nightmarish.
Sirius Wharf uses skyscrapers manipulated to mimic the sterile corporate regularity of Canary Wharf while The Ward Without and The Black City are the darker side of London; an absorbing tangle of alleyways, bridges and statuary.
The exhibition marks the launch of The Lion and the Unicorn, a trans-media graphic novel set in the alternate reality of Thamesis, capital city of the Kingdom of Albion. Conceived by Ash Pure in 1996, the story has appeared in a variety of guises – from Albion rising; a hand-made poster and mini comic sold in Magma book shop, Clerkenwell to 2007’s Thamesis digi-comic series.
As if art and a book launch weren’t quite enough to be getting on with in the same event, we were offered a mysterious ‘screening’ which took an unexpected turn for the interactive. Shuffled through damp, strobe-lit corridors, we were jostled by members of the Wet Wipez group who put on an extraordinary performance of dance mingled with forays into the audience. Another shuffle down a corridor lined with stuffed crows found us in a claustrophobic cellar while Salwa Azar sang a beautifully haunting and vaguely unreal folk song to an audience so mesmerised that they forgot to look at their iPhones.
Visit Thamesis in the Basement Gallery at Shoreditch Town Hall until Sunday night and get a sense of the underworld. The Lion and the Unicorn website is also pretty diverting.