Monday, January 24, 2022

Art exhibit ‘shows nation amid communal nervous breakdown’

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A contemporary art exhibition made from scrap materials reenacts “the insecurities and pain of a nation in the midst of a collective nervous breakdown,” its creator said.

The Monster installation, which opened in Leeds and consists of high-heeled shoes, lampshades and prams, lasted three years.

Artist Giles Walker has been sculpting for 27 years and in this exhibition he focused on issues he feels are particularly important in Britain.

He said, “Monster began with the idea of ​​building a play that would express the insecurities and pain of a nation in the midst of a communal nervous breakdown.”

Mr Walker described how the play developed, which started with a vague idea but then turned specifically to Britain: “It evolved into looking at the relationship between the general public and the establishment.

“This seems like a good time to show that as the current government is showing itself.”

Monster was first shown at The Truman Stables in London in 2020 but made its debut in the north of England at the Left Bank Leeds on Thursday and will remain there until January 29.

One element of the exhibition is the characters’ dry coughs, but “the pandemic was never an issue” of the play, Mr Walker said.

However, Monster was first shown during the pandemic and Mr Walker said it took the exhibition in a new direction.

“I built it before the pandemic and adapted it to the disease,” he said.

“I have these animatronic characters and they cough throughout the play. When it was first shown, the cough had a very different meaning.”

Visitors can walk in and around the sculptures with an accompanying soundtrack by Paul Hartnoll of electronic duo Orbital.

The soundtrack features dialogue on major issues in Britain, including the political landscape and the treatment of refugees.

Mr Walker said: “How a country looks after its refugees is a reflection of the nation.

“I’m also trying out different interviews and one is of Prince Andrew who is now taking on a new life due to the recent court case.

“Political in nature, the play is designed to provoke, captivate and disturb and I hope people in Leeds will be more intrigued than when they first arrived.”

Left Bank Leeds is a Grade I listed former church in Burley. According to the artist, this was intentional.

“It’s the most amazing building and it helps that it’s in a church because one of the characters is a priest as the church is obviously a part of the establishment,” Mr Walker said.

“The fact that the church is now being used for charitable projects instead of worship is really interesting.”

The show takes place after dark and is free to book.

Visitors are encouraged to make a donation that goes to the Refugee Community Kitchen, which serves food to those fleeing war, poverty, persecution and the effects of climate change.

Discussing the choice of charity, Mr Walker added: “A lot of people that I’ve worked with in the past and from the background that I come from guide them and I want to support them.”

Sue Jennings, Director of Left Bank Leeds said: “After reopening earlier this year with ‘Heaven’, which was positive and joyful, we felt it was time to take a different chord and showcase work , which are the complete opposite: haunting, dystopian and full of horror.”

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