catherine yass at the de la warr pavillion

28 August 2011 § Leave a comment

Apparently the lovely deco De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea was once at risk of being turned in to a JD Weatherspoon Pub. Sadly it is still at risk. Tatty plastic chairs sit in a poorly run cafe and cheap furnishings adorn a smelly restaurant where a plastic sofa sits dangerously close to a fabulous Wadsworth mural. In the lobby an afterthought of a book and souvenir shop had little of interest, upstairs plastic grass and a dj awaited a Saturday night party whilst outside the ‘award-winning’ band stand was surrounded by an unruly metal barricade which protected it from landscaping work which blighted an otherwise fine view. It is not all that bad but it could be just so much better.

Hopefully when the landscaping has finished a badly needed interior upgrade will occur (do not hold your breath) otherwise this fine building will revert to what it has been for some time – a modernist landmark in requiring plenty of tlc.

Fortunately the current exhibition goes some way to making amends for the dire management. A Catherine Yass exhibition, now coming to its last week, is spectacular. At its heart is her new film Lighthouse, which features a remote lightship, actually just visible on the horizon from the pavilion. The lighthouse is filmed close up from below, by helicopter and underwater whilst the image is frequently tilted, spun or flipped 180 degrees.

The effect is disconcerting and reminded me of those sequences in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey where the ‘spaceship’ was rotated as the astronauts remained vertical – you are suddenly reminded that reality is not quite and stable as it seems and that you are actually out in space. What is up and down? How do you orient yourself without gravity? At times the platform hung from the sky, as if an alien space-ship, at others it seemed huge and foreboding, at others small and remote. Balance, control and orientation are all put in to question. 

There are two other films. For Lock you are between two screens showing the front and rear end of a container ship in a vast Chinese lock and asked to imagine yourself enclosed in this huge space with changing perspectives. Descent has a camera lowered through the mist of Canary Wharf, but the you gradually realise that the image is flipped 180 degrees – again with the aim of disorienting and defying expectations.

Her photographic work is shown on light panels in rooms with dimmed lights. Positive and negative images taken a few seconds apart are cleverly superimposed and without digital manipulation. The effect is a depth of image through colour rather than perspective that also reflects the momentary time delay between images. Conventional spaces like derelict rooms, as well as the aforementioned lighthouse are given a startling new lease of life and hypnotic attraction.

I highly recommend rushing down to see the exhibition, although if you cannot make it Warhol is Here will run from 24 September until 26 February 2012 and will ‘explore his continued influence on our culture in the 21st century’.

De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill-on-sea until 4 September 2011

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