A site just off Tottenham Court Road should be considered prime real estate, so it’s a surprise to see a plot of land that has remained largely unused since the cinema that sat there was demolished in the early 1960s. It feels like this overgrown plot has been preserved for a reason, like when important archeological remains prevent building works from proceeding.
Artangel and Daniel Silver have brought this idea to life, creating a set of sculptures that give visitors the feeling they’ve entered an archaeological dig. Entry is via a wooden walkway into a room filled with plaster casts of what appear to be fragmented statues. They’ve all been lined up as if waiting to be catalogued, then shipped off to a museum.
Going down one floor leads us into the ‘dig site’ itself where the larger statues have been left ‘in situ’. Gargantuan stone heads sit atop pedestals in a reverential position as if they’re there to be worshipped. The heads themselves show a mixture of Greek and Egyptian origins, but are different enough from other historical eras to give the impression that a lost civilisation under London has been discovered.
The dim lighting, the waterlogged floor of the dig site and the scaffolding all give the impression of entering an archaeological dig rather than a sculpture exhibition. The stone heads are fascinating and, though the smaller works are largely unimpressive, the innovative concept means this exhibition is like none we’ve seen before.
Daniel Silver: Dig is at the Odeon Site, 24 Grafton Way, WC1E 6DB until 3 November. Admission is free.