Friday 18th September – Sunday 4th October Curated by: Sim Takhar, Adam Isfendiyar, Zulfqar Ali, Maria-Domenica Arcuri
The Old Bell Foundry Whitechapel seems the perfect place for a show dedicated to work made during Lockdown. Its deep pits made to fire and cast huge bells that would ring out as both warning and celebration. A big factory space means that visitors can feel quite safe wandering around looking at the installations, the film sections of the show only allow 4 visitors in their booths at a time and all are encouraged to wear masks. From paper cut-outs, through sculpture, photograph and film, artists describe versions of lockdown in multiple ways.
Some face their demons: Such as ADHD sufferer Katja Koggelmann aka Mrs Schnitzeltulip, who casts herself Cindy Sherman style in multiple roles to get through the sheer boredom and terror of those 3 months. Mrs Schnitzeltulip Goes to Work veers from stockings to drag, housecoats to party gear, as she works her way through her changing states of mind via clothes/poses/simulations to lay a photographic mental map before us.
Countering this, the hugely tall Sam Walton lets us step right over him in Approximately Two metres as he lays his funny acerbic take on the situation on the floor, stopping us in our tracks, sorting the sheep from the goats: Who will step on a cat? A man? – Do you dare? Do you want to?
Adam Razvi lures us into a dark booth to hear four different soundscapes, talking heads on lockdown in Open Wide and Say AHH: Medics, the elderly trapped inside, some shielding, some coping, others not really. Whilst a screen shows an endless moving mouth spitting out words, lockdown palimpsest. If you stand in the middle of the space it is just a din, an unintelligible racket, yet, if you move to the side, you listen to intimate confessions of varied sorts.
Paper cut-outs laid on cutting mats and copied to produce large black & white images hang over the space showing separation, coughing faces, a Covid hit tower block, the spray of disease flying through the air on a seemingly unavoidable graph. Josh Redman’s First Impressions from the Great Pandemic was made early lockdown when we were all encountering the dark.
Pietro Silvestri’s film Time Hole of inner city London shows the usually teeming streets emptied of all. Buses stop to let masked passengers on and off, a homeless young man sits aghast against a bus stop bench, bent with misery. An old man carefully exits a building eager to avoid all humans; a shopper walks with her shopping tightly wound to her hands, her face obliterated by a mask and glasses.
Portraits of the Quarantined Mind by Doma Dovgialo takes an international look at lockdown with a piece that combines portraits and handwritten statements from people all over the planet. The settings are various but the feelings, distortions, and mental anguish are felt by all.
Take Nothing for Granted by Alens Vimba captures London scenes during Lockdown with technicolour photos of travel, street scenes, the rush of the city in the silence of the lockdown, providing a splash of colour in an otherwise drab world.
A strange sedan chair sits to one side, Covid-proofed with dials and pipes to keep the air moving for its sole passenger as they are carried through a fever ridden city. A modern day Pepys perhaps making his way from Greenwich homewards after a hard day trying to persuade the powers that be to take the right decisions: Save trade/Save lives! – Charles Ogilvie’s The Pandemic Sedan Chair sits theatrically mimicking the foundry pipes under which it rests.
Paula Chambers envisages escape with a macramé rope ladder that leads straight to the factory ceiling, as far from the ground as she could go with Feminist Escape Route: Attempt #3. Then turns her attention to Lacking Charm, cocoons for keys that jut out of papier maché shells bound with embroidery thread hanging from vintage carpet sweeps totemising both domestic isolation/danger and a means of escape, charms that swing slowly over our heads as we contemplate climbing that ladder.
An old kiln lined with images that look that they might have come straight out of its maw are the work of Adam Isfendiyar for London in Lockdown looking at the crumpled, crinkled reactions to our thoroughly altered planet. Adam, seeing people stuck in their houses as he wandered around his local area, wanted to find out how they were feeling; so posted on a local aid group site asking if he could photograph them through their windows, on their balconies: The response was overwhelming.