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Immersion at The Foundry

The vaults at The Foundry London 29 – 31 April 2010

Deep underground, in a disused bank vault beneath the crowded Foundry pub, something uncanny lurks. In this cramped, cold space which once housed the solid reality of stashed wealth, Alison Thomson, Anna Louise Hale and Alex Clifton have created a dreamlike space of mutable interpretations. In the first room we encounter a bedroom in a seeming state of suspended animation – suspended literally in the case of the mattress, books and bedding – where a dim bedside lamp provides an oppressive light, thrown back by the low ceiling. Littered cigarette butts on the floor scent the room with an evocative miasma, but as with so much of this work, it is unclear exactly what is being evoked: are these the remains of a party, or evidence of someone locked alone in their room, smoking and staring out of the window while time slips by unused? On the far wall a time-lapse video of a view through an urban window projects on a loop, cycling monotonously through from night to day and back to darkness again.

From the next room comes a rhythmic thudding sound, the beat of a human heart, and in this second space is an atmosphere even more enclosed than than in the first: a womb-like feeling, and at the same time oppressively restricted. The light here is even more dim, coming only from the dilapidated bath in the corner, where the projection of a naked man lies in the water, moving from time to time more like a sleeper who dreams of bathing than someone actively cleaning himself. The scent of stale cigarettes has given way to the powerful odour of TCP, from the open bottle propped on the washbasin amongst empty beer glasses and dirty towels. All around are broken tiles and exposed plaster, but again the viewer is left to decide for themselves whether this is a bathroom in the process of construction or disintegration; the tenuous bather offers no explanation, caught in his cycle of tentative ablutions. Is he the tenant of the frozen, tempestuous room next door? Are these rooms connected within the narrative of this underground world, or are we stepping from one idea, one set of emotions, to a different notion entirely, perhaps a reconstructed memory of earliest childhood, now strangely inflected by the influences of of adult life?

The influences of Freud’s Interpretation of dreams are manifest in this quietly disquieting installation, and perhaps what is shown most clearly is the way in which dreams take hold entirely of the dreamer: Immersion refers not only to the man in his bath, but also to the experience of the viewer in this space which presses in on the senses. Just as in a dream, this overwhelming sense of connectedness makes it seem at first that there must be a narrative which will make sense of these visual events, and the waking mind struggles to form coherent connections, just as the viewer speculates about the history of the first room, and its relation to the incorporeal inhabitant of the second. And yet we cannot be sure that there is a story here, or perhaps the only certain thing is that, allowing ourselves to be drawn into this murky, allusive environment, our own interpretations and story-weaving provide the reality here.

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