Nightclubs: music; dancing; sweat drenched skin; touching; anonymous bodies; connecting.
The rumblings of a secret nightclub in the centre of Liverpool – an oasis for anybody seeking to dance away their daily troubles or an exclusive venue you’ll never be invited to enter? Clubs can simultaneously conjure inclusive and exclusive meanings, depending on which side of the door you stand. Whilst Louisa Martin’s exhibition, Proxy, references nightclubs in very broad, homogenous ways, it also offers something very specific in commentating on human interactions, behaviours and emotions.
Experiencing this work alone and as part of a group offers two very different understandings. As a single occupant of the room, your only companion is the dancing shadows cast by the draped net fabric, hung like drying lingerie. The vibrant pinks and purples of the bass-synced lighting are emotive. These are metaphorical bodies enjoying your out-of-body experience without you.
The press release for the exhibition makes several references to the body. The beautifully seductive, LED illuminated, etched glass sign, provides something of a focal point to the space; serves to underpin the bodily, with marked gestures of limbs. Static, but still dancing.
Proxy is accompanied by another solo exhibition, Larissa Sansour’s In the Future, They Ate from the Finest Porcelain. The two exhibitions are in many ways unrelated; Sansour’s work is geopolitical, present in terms of physicality and follows a linear narrative. Martin’s work on the other hand is far less tangible, offering something more abstract and experiential. Both exhibitions, though, are born of scientific, multidisciplinary research, even if some of Sansour’s work blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction.
Focusing on Proxy, the soundtrack to the installation is reminiscent of a Vangelis composition, a beefed up Blade Runner. The setup is crying out for a bigger, nightclub style sound system but the bass still resonated behind the sternum, deep in the chest cavity.
As a lone visitor, there is a stark feeling of isolation. A single light seems to track your movements with purpose – assisting visitors to develop an awareness to the room’s nuances. This awareness to detail becomes heightened the longer you spend in the room.
Although the soundtrack is on a relatively short loop of 10 minutes, there is no sense of repetition. Everything seems to gradually grow. It is at this point that you realise the proxy of the exhibition’s title is the room – the visitor is at once the body and inside the body: a proxy to each other.
The lighting and soundtrack can affect us psychologically and physically, permeating in and out of our bodies, perhaps entwining us with others as we dance.
The room doesn’t necessarily induce a desire to dance, and that doesn’t necessarily seem to have been the artist’s intention, but there is a powerful resonance being omitted that can connect the loneliest of visitors to another.
Previous work by Martin has been informed by her research into Autism (as outlined by the beautiful Fraser Muggeridge designed publication, ‘Lossy Ecology’, that accompanied her exhibition at Flat Time House, London, and available at Bluecoat throughout the exhibition). Though this research may not have informed Proxy directly, there are clear lineages.
Louisa Martin, Proxy, Bluecoat, Liverpool, 6 May – 24 June 2017.
James Harper is an artist, curator and writer based in Liverpool.