Shlepp along past the Wapping Project in E1 and you can't fail to notice that something is afoot. Yellow umbrellas hang from a tree, as if a gaggle of Mary Poppins had become ensnared in the branches. Nearby a column of Dan Flavin-like yellow fluorescents hang in the disused accumulator tower, a pool at the bottom reflecting them into infinity. On the building's roof, a shipping forecast intones as a yellow dinghy and a fishing line sit unmanned. What gives?
This is Yellow Since 1877, a show designed to mark the 130th anniversary of Veuve Cliquot champagne. While collaborations between brands and art can be cynical, the various installations here seem less an extension of corporate identity management precisely because of the absence of the famed tipple.
Well, that is, if you ignore the colour yellow. For this is no randomly chosen shade, but rather, Pantone 137C, the champagne house's unique colour, which it registered 130 years ago and has been synonymous with ever since. The reference number crops up everywhere you look. Those umbrellas in the tree? 137 of 'em. Ditto the fluorescent lights.
Descending into the gallery's main space comes the most interesting part of the exhibition. Wapping creative director Jules Wrights' Forest recreates an autumnal copse at dusk. The effect of moving into the space from a bright winter's day is sobering, as is the scene found at the center: a bike abandoned next to a 137C-daubed telephone booth whose receiver rings ominously. Answer the phone, stay on the line for a while, and the atmosphere become deadlier still. Nearby, a greenhouse plays a short video-art thriller called "In Search Of 137C".
As is readily apparent, this is a show that could serve as the dictionary definition for cross-discipline art. To that collaborative end, the choreographer Maresa von Stockert is putting on a series of evening performances this week designed specifically for the site. It may all be in thrall to a champagne brand, but when art is as playfully enjoyable as this, the sinister hand of the corporation can be overlooked.
"Yellow Since 1877", The Wapping Project, E1W 3SG, until January 20th. Maresa von Stockert's performances take place December 12th & 13th at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm.
Photograph by the author