Organism, machine and the agency of the artefact: Being Amongst, Within, Without exhibition review

Being Amongst: Within and Without is the work of Sophia Reinisch, Maria Dragoi, and Eric Arnal: an emerging curatorial team with a striking and cohesive debut. Being Amongst, Within, and Without, is far from a traditional gallery. Taking inspiration from the Wunderkammer of Early Modern Europe, the exhibit is closer to an eclectic hoarder’s attic than a traditional white cube gallery. According to-curator Eric Arnal, “[the curators] chose it specifically because it wasn’t a gallery space, we wanted to feel like you were walking into the house of an eccentric collector, and everything on display was at ‘home.’”

Set in Safehouse 2, a stripped-down Victorian house in Peckham, the location is a central aspect of the exhibition. The setting was the seminal point from which the exhibition developed, with the choice of site coming before any artists or works were picked for inclusion. The setting is in active dialogue with the pieces through the process of situating them within a physicality and its context.

On entering, the most immediate work is Swedish artist Hanna Antonsson’s Waiting Talarias: a pair of runners adorned with mechanical wings. The back-and-forth movement of the wings is mechanical and indeed unsettling with the verisimilitude of the feathering. This is the first of many works within the exhibit that straddles the dichotomy of mechanical and organic: with some not inhabiting either realm, but developing into something greater than the sum of its parts.

One such piece is William Darrell’s Parapodia. In the second room of the ground floor, the sculpture Parapodia basks in the glow of an industrial floodlight: both physically and visually centered within the room. Its form and motion is that of a deep sea worm, while its body is composed of 3D-printed PLA plastic. Once the eye is drawn to the piece it is captured: the organic undulation is hypnotic.

The themes of motion and stillness are present through the exhibition. Don’tPlayWith Babylonian Numerology (Do Play With is Sculpture) invites the viewer to take agency in the reorganisation of the piece. Each limb (resembling the petals of a flower) is mobile, and can be set to concrete positions. The piece plays with the human desire to enact agency through “deliberate mechanical decisions”, according to the artist. Its central position in the first room of the second floor invites the audience to view from all angles - and indeed, play with the sculpture.