Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ice Cold in NW1

I’ve written before about hunting for art. That time was in a multistorey car park in Peckham. This time it was in the bowels of the University of Westminster on Marylebone Road, rattling unlikely-looking Sunday-lockdown academic doors and wandering cavernous pillared warehouse spaces before stumbling finally into the exhibition.

Entering through the exit, as we did, the immediate impression is of darkness, liquid and straight lines. A moment of adjustment, then the Knightmarish realisation that you are standing on a narrow walkway between sharp-edged pools of water.

With each minute that passes your eyes adjust, and now you see figures silhouetted against paler, flickering screens, railings and steps, a higher floor where images play on screens, and patterns of light dancing on the walls.

Gradually it makes a sort of sense.  A long bench between square pools of dark water, into which you can dip your hands, making ripples which are projected and multiplied on the walls. Screens you can walk around and behind. Upstairs, four films play simultaneously and side by side, glimpses of life among the ice: chunks of melting glaciers held up on the deck of a boat like glassy fish; men chipping icicles off the side of boats; an Inuit woman explorer; huskies; igloos; and calving icebergs.

And through it all a real coldness, a nip in the air that doesn’t match the rest of the building, a cool, damp, half-clean smell.

Out of Ice by Elizabeth Ogilvie in association with British Antarctic Survey is at Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS, until 9 February 2014.

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