19th September 2019 - 19th January 2020
Image Credit: Science Gallery's website
The Science Gallery has a reputation for delivering innovative exhibits combining art and science, and On Edge is no exception. To explore the theme of anxiety in contemporary society, some artists marry visuals and sounds to voice their experiences, while others create a space to explore topics not traditionally associated with anxiety. For an area where it is perilously easy to cross into cliché, most of the works do very well with inviting the viewers to think differently about what it means to be “on edge”.
In a corner of the gallery is a darkened room playing the standout of the exhibit, Benedict Drew’s The Bad Feel Loops. Almost Lynchian in its use of audio and extended shots interspersed with flickering images, it creates a sense of unsettling surrealism and mirrors the experience of intrusive thoughts and rumination, common in anxiety. The more abstract parts of the video succeed in actually provoking anxiety while also providing an interesting visual sensory experience. Bellona (After Samuel R. Delaney) by Ann Lislegaard, also placed in a darkened corner room, provides a similar but less intense experience through a 3D animation of a dystopian, urban future. Finally, Consider Falling by Sarah Howe captures the feeling of depersonalisation through imaginative use of reflected screens and mirrors.
Not all of the artists in the gallery, however, want to share the feeling of anxiety with the viewer. In a reaffirming piece brightening the entire wall, If You Need by Alice May Williams displays encouraging words from teammates and coaches and shows the power of human bonds in combatting anxiety. McConn’s The Infinity Label List is an interesting coping exercise for dealing with events outside of one’s control. And in the very center of the room is the Common Thread space, partially enclosed, with tapestries woven through patterned cloth. The warm colors and bohemian décor lend a feeling of intimacy to the gallery, and placing it in the centre is a wonderful idea as it offers an easy refuge from the stressful works occupying the corner spaces.
Finally, To Not Follow Under by Leah Clements provides a captivating introduction to the exhibit, an invitation and a warning that anxiety is an experience that can never be fully shared with others. It would have been the perfect transition to exploring the works of Benedict Drew, Ann Lislegaard, and Cian McConn, but the viewers are instead led to an interactive area on current research in anxiety. Although it gives an interesting and needed perspective on causes and our gaps in understanding, it seems placed too early in the exhibit and draws the viewers away just as they are invited to dive in with the artists.
Nevertheless, the gallery did a wonderful job of inviting viewers to explore themes of anxiety. Whether or not you are already familiar with anxiety through lived experience or academic expertise, On Edge can provide a fresh perspective and is worth seeing.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor