By guest writer, Tom Farmer.
Lair Du Temp , “Ëspace 315” by Latifa Echakhch at the Centre Pompidou , Paris.
Just hang on, hang on a minute, I’m a little confused. I’ve just walked into an exhibition space on Centre Pompidou’s ground floor.It’s a long, white-walled, room filled with rows of flat, wooden cloud shapes hanging from the ceiling – the type used in stage sets, in children’s pantomime’s and the like.
They are suspended, not high up, or even at eye level, but just above the floor. That’s not what’s disorienting me, though. I seem to have walked in through the “Out door,” because I am looking at the wrong side of these cloud sets with their backboards and metal support bars all painted in obliterating matt black. (I didn’t spot a ‘’Sortie” sign, or even that universal traffic sign of no entry, the bright red disc with the broad, white line lying at its centre). Have I entered through the stage door instead of the punter’s entrance? I stare right down to the far side of the room over rows and rows of black clouds, scanning the back wall for the proper entry.
There is a guard sitting on her chair, and some other gallery- goers, enjoying the view of the clouds from the other end. But, definitely no entry door, just a blank white wall.
Suddenly, I realise this is the artists specific take. Her deliberate contrivance to slightly disorientate the viewer as soon as they enter her “theatre”.
The show hasn’t even started, and things are happening in reverse. I check the back of my collar to see if I’m wearing my shirt inside out.
I look at the cloud props a little closer. Most are a metre or so high and are “floating” just above the varnished, parquetry floor. I am now walking slowly with my head literally in the clouds (actually, a little way above them), but the dreamy overtones that they should induce are not there because their blackness is so menacing.
Now, I notice that there are various objects sitting on the floor on my side of these clouds.These have also been painted black, but only partially so. Are these random bits of bric-a brac and discarded items, or are they precious memorabilia loaded with sinister meaning from the artist’s sinister past? I make a quick mental list: some tacky, plastic flowers in a tipped-over vase; a used video and cassette tape; a row of old paperback books; an empty, open suitcase; a perfume bottle, etc. etc.
Are these clues to a murder perhaps, half blotted out by black ink and craftily hidden behind “innocent” fluffy clouds, or are they the general detritus of an everyman’s dark side?
I make my way through the clouds, slowly zig-zagging through their puffy forms. When I turn my head, I see what I expect to see this time: curled up mists of paint portraying clouds, complete with bright blue sky framing their fluffy edges. Everything is light and happy on this side – a child’s idealised backdrop to a sunny life, all hung down at hand height, making billowing bliss accessible and, maybe, even to us adults, achievable.
I reach the far wall and join the throng that have made it to this end of the room. They have all turned around and are enjoying the view – the brighter one. Some have even sat down with their backs to the wall to be amongst the clouds at a more intimate level. Some are daydreaming, some, maybe, cloud spotting. All are positively beaming.
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