The Barbican’s Curve gallery has played host to some entertaining exhibitions including the spectacularly popular Rain Room and Cory Arcangel’s montage of ten pin bowling video games repeatedly bowling gutter balls.
Past exhibitions have taken advantage of this gallery’s unique shape but Ayse Erkmen has gone one step further and related her work to why the gallery is so shaped – it curves around the back of a theatre hall and sits above the backstage area.
Erkmen has designed 11 theatre style backdrops that raise and lower via an automated system, blocking and then unblocking the route onwards. Each backdrop is designed to a different style of theatre ranging from a garden scene to the traditional red curtains.
Most gallery visitors are used to progressing through an exhibition at their own pace, so it’s refreshing to have the tables turned as you have to wait for a scene to rise up before you can pass under it. Rather than being an unsettling experience it’s more anticipatory as to what will reveal itself next and the enforced wait makes the viewer engage with the scenery in front of them.
Though it’s a fun experience, the downside of this exhibition is that all of the backdrops are rather bland. Having to wait for a scene to rise up is only worthwhile if the image in front of you can hold your interest, and in this work they seldom do.
We still recommend a visit to experience this intriguing concept, but it’s unlikely to hold a visitor’s attention for more than a single pass through.
Ayse Erkmen: Intervals is on in The Curve, Barbican Centre until 5 January. Entrance is free.