The electric doors swish open and we’re in, to the left a sinister whispering sound in a darkened room, to the right the low pitched moan of a kettle nearing the boil beckons.
After a moment’s indecision we head right into a large, light, airy room, the atmosphere moist with the steamy discharge from six shiny chrome kettles. If we look closely, we can see that the kettles each have a word engraved on them, creativity, autonomy, fecundity, latency, reverie, liberty.
Arranged on the floor, and sporadically coming to the boil, they take turns to spew their steam onto the fastidious surface of a series of vertical glass ovals. Intercepted by these mirror-less mirrors, the nebulous vapours coalesce into droplets which drip their way onto pristine leaves of blotting paper neatly piled below.
Circumnavigating the kettles, we mount the stairs, and are gradually stifled by the massed emissions of a roomful of plug-in air fresheners, each mounted on the end of a long electrical lead, plugged into one of a set of organically linked multiple adaptors. The patently artificial smell of the sanitising devices completely swamps any natural scent that might be coming from a vase of fresh flowers, placed on a small table in the gallery. This olfactory fiction, it’s narrative flow tightly controlled by electrical timers, is countered by a languid, almost ecstatic, female voice.
She reads aloud verses from a poem; luscious imagery of evanescent flowers coupled with descriptions of intricate needlework seem to allude to something more exhilarating.
Throughout the visit, we have been aware of another story unfolding in the adjoining double height gallery, barely audible whispers have leaked out of the space, and from the landing areas, we can see down onto a large plinth, the top of which radiates the orange glow of a bed of cornflakes lit from below. Scarcely perceptible movements or eddies disturb the surface of this esoteric pot pourri.
On the adjacent wall, a spy hole hints at lush pleasures and pains within, beneath it, at groin height, a video monitor shows close up images of crushed juicy plums, and when we finally adopt the peeping Tom role, we see a cold metal vice, in which a vulnerable, delicate, tumescent plum is held on the very cusp of rupture; one final, tiny touch, and the juice will spurt forth.
Lost in a private reverie, we could easily miss the dozen or so observation mirrors, mounted high on the walls. Out of reach yet all too tangible, they remind us that we remain under constant disapproving surveillance. While whispered warnings of the likely consequences of deviance, add to the sense of being observed and critically assessed.
These installations play with several of the viewer’s senses. The wholesome taste of breakfast is recalled, but the cloying artificial smells in the next room are clearly there to mask something less palatable. The steam cleaning of the clear glass, by the seemingly autonomous, yet carefully regulated kettles, speaks of the pleasures of doing something entirely for its own sake, apart from the covenants of society.
There is no right or wrong reading of these works, the viewer will inevitably bring their own history and expectations with them, perhaps these may be subtly revised or reappraised during the visit, or afterwards in the private spaces in our heads and homes.