The Wapping Project is one of our favourite art locations in London, which is why we’re often sad its overlooked by many Londoners in favour of the more central big dog-galleries. We can confirm though that the extra tube stops (Wapping isn’t that far) are well worth the ride, for the result is a gem of a gallery that hosts boundary-pushing installations and an amazing restaurant. For those who haven’t been, it resides in the cavernous belly of an old factory – there’s a gallery space at the back providing the dark eeriness that its art house-selection of work deserves to be shown in, and then there’s the fantastic restaurant that is nestled between the machinery.
Right now, the gallery space is home to the David Lynch-esque, stunningly shot ‘Passage’, a film and still image thriller created by The Wapping Project director Jules Wright and photographer Thomas Zanon-Larcher. Usually installations such as this produce a crowd that meanders around, who stop to watch for a moment, before swiftly moving on. It is a testament to how utterly engulfing the whole experience is that viewers at the private view sat down, popcorn in hand and watched the whole thing from start to finish. The film elements of the installation provide just enough to suggest at an overall mood, with cars gliding along a tunnel and headlights silently flooding past the lens, hinting at the beginning or end of a painful narrative. The spine-tingling building and waning of the traditional thriller soundtrack also adds to the suspense. Whilst both these aspects help to build a general air of tension, it is the combination of still shots – giving snippets of narrative – that makes the whole experience so engrossing. Each image stands alone as a perfect shot, bringing to mind the theatrical realism of Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson, amongst others.
As a clear homage to the thiller genre, there are also may references to films such as The Third Man and Solaris. As the slideshow of images builds into something disarmingly chilling, it becomes easy to forget these are just a selection of stills. Each person left with a slightly different idea of the sequence of events, some thought a threesome with a dwarf had gone horribly wrong. Others thought it was a drugs bust. We found out that the actors themselves were only prepared for their own actions for each specific scene, which meant they accidentally ran into other characters along the way, who were also equipped with their own agenda and instructions. The comparisons with Lynch are drawn mainly from the general aesthetic, but also from the installation’s ability to create something complete out of abstract parts. Passage is worth a visit for its originality, and a little trip down the DLR isn’t too much to go through in exchange for a first rate night at the movies.
Passage is on show at The Wapping Project until 10 March 2013. For more information [click here]
Words by Emily Steer.