07 August 2007

Blind Light

Who? Antony Gormley
What? Blind Light exhibition
Where? Hayward Gallery, London
When? Saturday 4th August, 5pm

I had no idea what to expect. I knew neither the artist's name nor the purpose or the name of the exhibition. I had seen the advertising poster in many corridors in the underground system in my everyday commute -- interesting picture by the way! I wouldn't call it quite disturbing but certainly eye catching at least. Yet not quite interesting enough to find out more about what the whole thing was about. That is until Chris talked about how he'd arrived a little late on Friday and decided to postpone it until Saturday. I think Chris as a friend, backpacking around the world who I met only a few days ago. But that's another story altogether...

But let me cut short my wanders and come back to today. I usually evaluate where I am in the space around me and finding my place around the art objects. Today was different though, as I entered reading the small booklet that I was given at the entrance, half looking around me to locate Chris who'd entered a couple of minutes before me (I had to give up my bag to the clockroom before entering...) and half trying to find out what I was about to discover.

The first thing that striked me was the cold air wrapping me in its thick sheet and the darkness of the large room contrasting with the bright beautiful sunny day that stood outside. Yet moving my eyes across the room they fell on a gigantic dark grey/black metallic structure called the "Space Station"that stood between me and a strong light coming in through a line of narrow, rectangular and high up windows. But this brightness was plain white and would not bring any warmth or life in this room...

At first I didn't think much of it all except for my usual annoyance of cold "air con" in public places and I crossed my arms over my chest to keep the cold away. I moved closer to the space station, trying to uncover its mystery and listen to its story. Giant, composed of rectangular and hollow cubes melded together in an asymetric shape, it called me closer. I felt the urge to inspect it close by, check its hollow inside through the numerous square holes cut in the cubes, observe its irragularities and I imagined a battle raging in its belly... The fear became terror and I saw the space station grow, expand in all directions to a mouth-like shape and in slow motion this ever darker mouth swallowing me, devouring me. At that time I began to feel nauseous and the cold intensified closing in on me and making it look even darker than it was, and increasing the contrast between the strong light coming in through the small windows and the darkness of the structure. I took a step back and leaned casually on the wall a few feet away, trying to recompose myself from this unexpected attack. But all I could touch was loneliness as if Dementors were sucking life out of me (to take an image that many have already in their heads thanks to Harry Potter...). The space station was ferocious, threatening and became a black hole.

I walked away quickly, had a glimpse at the next door room generously lit in a warm yellow lights but the concrete blocks standing there in rows could do nothing to appease the heavy stomach or the tears that were coming up. I therefore sat down for a period of time, turning my back to the inhospitable space station, and tried to reconnect to myself and recover my centre. I did eventually, then got up again making sure I would not look at it again while moving onto the next part of the room, much brighter.

There I started to queue to enter the "blind light box", a 10 to 15m long, square plexiglass box maybe 2 to 3m high. From the outside, I finally understood the photo of the advertising poster as I saw the hand of a person walking inside, utterly lost... Entering the box is like entering a brightly lit cloud the thickness of which I've never seen except maybe through an airplane window. You cannot see more than a foot or two feet away from your nose and get disorientated very quickly. As soon as I entered, calmness entered my breathing and my heart, and I watched into a white nothingness. Each breath took me back a little closer to myself, each step away from the space station... The water on the floor raised to the sole of my feet adding to the feeling of being outside of time and space, arrested in a world of non ordinary reality. I was bodiless, floating around yet with my feet on the ground, silent, present to my aloneness... This feeling reminded me of that I had experienced last year in an opposite situation -- living 3 days in complete darkness: restful and empty but not lonely, a peaceful solitude. The water saturated atmosphere of the box brought life to each cell with which it made contact, and by diffusion and intercellular communication dispersed it to all of them -- it was sacred water, sacred life that made me feel whole, complete, real and new, immobile and present.

Finally, we climbed up a few steps and entered a sunny room filled with "matrices". The French doors opened onto bright terraces where people warmed their bones to the much needed summer sun. A good 10 structures were awaiting us, showing the space were the body was without representing the body itself, as if being drawn in the air. It was a much lighter finish for me, in this bright room filled with air and the "non-bodies" represented exhibiting a sense of freedom yet of being prisoner of their surroundings but not too bothered about it. They could have been drawn out of a circus, jugglers maybe or acrobats, dancers, all rather distorted and in direct contact with the ordinary world but most importantly with the world of the spirits.

If I didn't know the name of this artist until Friday, I certainly will remember him now...

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