Claymation grows up at Camden Arts Centre

Nathalie Djurberg tackles taboos in a new exhibition

Imagine you’re a young person, coming to see art in London for the first time. What would you make of the exhibitions at the Camden Arts Centre?” This approach was suggested by my partner, the sculptor Dave King. As a teenager he travelled down the recently built M1 from Birmingham on the back of an open lorry in February to see the seminal Tate exhibition which gave many people a first taste of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Could viewing CAC’s exhibitions be equally memorable?

Though obviously on a smaller scale, perhaps they could. Nathalie Djurberg’s A World of Glass and Haroon Mirza’s I Saw Square Triangle Sine are adventurous and affecting. But rather than trying to enter the mindset of today’s youth, I decided to simulate the experience of viewing this art as I might have done in the Sixties – open to fun and shocks. And I found both.

At first encounter, Mirza’s installation seems low-key: there’s a drum kit beside assemblages of eclectic objects including an old radio spinning on a turntable while above it circles a low-energy light bulb set into a cymbal. On one wall is a row of Angus Fairhurst’s Underdone/Overdone Paintings. The accompanying audio is intended to investigate the moment when noise becomes music. Then I notice an invitation on the wall text: play the drums to respond to the audio and paintings. I realise that I’m alone (but for the attendant) with a drum kit in a sun-filled space and as I’m 17 again I can have a go. That was the fun.

The jaw-dropping shocks came on entering the main gallery where Djurberg and her Swedish compatriot, the composer Hans Berg, have created a parallel universe that envelopes the viewer visually and aurally. The darkened space is filled with long tables bearing translucent objects resembling distorted and blown-up glass tableware – centrepieces, candelabras and vessels –while at either end of the room animated films are projected which grate and disturb as much as the soundtrack.

There are four five-minute films in which “claymation” figures (think X-rated Wallace and Gromit) enact gruesome scenarios which broach taboos. One was so compelling I watched it twice – flinching with horror. A naked black girl shares an icy room with a reindeer, fox, warthog and two animal traps. When her foot gets caught, the reindeer tries in vain to free her, the fox bites through her leg. Who eats the foot? What about the other trap? Go see. Art with impact!

Until January 8. Camden Arts Centre is at the junction of Finchley Road and Arkwright Road, NW3. Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm and until 9pm on Wednesday.

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