‘Site specific work is a way of helping the public to engage more with art’

Adam Barker-Mill's 'The Glowb'. Picture: Alice Lubbock

Adam Barker-Mill's 'The Glowb'. Picture: Alice Lubbock - Credit: Archant

The crypt of a Little Venice church is hosting an immersive art exhibition reflecting on ritual, spirituality and death.

The crypt of a Little Venice church is hosting an immersive art exhibition reflecting on ritual, spirituality and death.

Artists have contributed light and sound installations, performance pieces, sculpture and painting for Revive! At St Mary Magdalene’s in Rowington Place.

The show was put together by curators Sasha Galitzine and Olga Mackenzie who were behind previous site specific exhibitions this summer including Closer To The Veg, a takeover of Highgate allotments and Pompe, a Dionysian waterborne procession along Regent’s Canal.

Revive! hopes to raise awareness of the St Mary Magdalene Development Project, a joint initiative between the Paddington Development Trust and church to restore the Neo-Gothic Grade I listed church into a heritage, community, culture and arts hub.

“It’s an amazing space,” says Sasha. “The community in the area is becoming more diverse and having a Christian place of worship with no facilities for the community isn’t really working. Part of the renovation is to build a community centre next door to include all sorts of faiths.”

Galitzine Mackenzie work with local communities, staging accessible and inclusive exhibitions often in hidden or unconventional spaces.

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Pompe was a reaction against the commercialisation of the annual Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park.

“When we asked the local community no-one really knew what Frieze was. It was a protest to include everyone who wanted to join in rather than an exclusive art event. We borrowed a boat and designed live performances around the canal ending at St Mary Magdalene.

“Site specific work is a way of helping the public to engage more with art. It’s not an exclusive white cube space but something they might encounter by chance.”

Revive! Includes Carolyn Barker-Mill’s experiments in stained glass which replace the crypt’s missing window panels, and Finnish artist Hans Rosenstrom’s sound recording which is triggered by the listener’s body when they sit on a chair; “the audio only exists when you are listening”. All female dance group STASIS will wander in character through the space before staging a highly choreographed piece to “grungy rave music” wearing ceramic boxing gloves.

“We work with artists who are good at responding to spaces,” says Sasha who adds that Lucinder May uses notes of Gregorian chants painted around the chapel as inspiration for a sound piece of her singing, Col Self looks at ritual in the age of technology, with a participatory ritual based around carving a name into a metal plate, and Jonathan McCree evokes the space as a pre burial site of transcendence for the soul, placing his paintings on the floor under a layer of perspex “suggesting a ghostly presence, forcing you to walk on paintings and transfigure your body.”

She and Olga researched the history of the Church, the ecclesiastical masterpiece of architect George Edmund Street who also designed the Courts of Justice in the Strand.

It was commissioned as part of the Anglo Catholic revival by Father Richard Temple West on a mission of social improvement in a slum area which was later cleared after the war.

This history informs Niklas Gustafson’s use of archival and current footage to project the future of the space: “reflecting how the church has to renovate and serve the community in a new way.” And Adam Barker-Mill’s site-specific light works emphasise the niches and gilded altar.

“They are reflective of the over decorated space, the pomp and ceremony that was used to engage this incredibly poor community of slums and prostitution– hence the dedication to St Mary Magdalene - where Father West brought all these wealthy nobles to the crummiest area of London in their smart carriages.”

Revive! runs until December 18. open daily, 3-7pm.