Ron Arad Makes A Curtain Call At London's Roundhouse
New Installation showcases artists, designers, friends,family & colleagues of Arad
2 years ago, you may remember David Byrne toured his installation "Playing the Building" to The Roundhouse. It was great. I myself visited on a hot summers day and played Byrne's odd machine of organ pipes and percussive beaters, all controlled by air; I liked it so much, I even made a recording of my 'majestic' performance of odd squeaks and taps. At the time, designer Ron Arad, whose studio is nearby, got together with the Roundhouse and came up with an idea for a bespoke installation. "Curtain Call" is the result. A 360˚ curtain of 10mm diameter flexible silicone rods hang a couple of feet from the inside edge of the 24 iron columns which hold up the Roundhouse's roof. They act as a projection screen for films shown in 360˚, in the manner of a zoetrope. As well as capturing the projected light, they also cast the captured light outwards onto the floor surrounding the curtain, in an ever moving pattern of stripes.
"This is an experiment, and the word experiment includes the possibility of failure" Arad notes in the accompanying progamme: "You've noticed that the Roundhouse is round. It's the first thing you notice. You should definitely take advantage of the fact that it has no direction. I've been here for performances and the space was transformed, it was like a photo-show. So I thought this was an opportunity to enjoy the roundness of it. And it didn't take very long to say: why don't we do this curtain thing? Images that you can move through, and let's make it like a big cylinder."
In addition, various artists and designers - friends & colleagues of Arad - have been commissioned to create projections for the project - these include Babis Alexandis, Hussein Chalayan, Paul Cocksedge, Mat Collishaw, Ori Gersht, Greenaway & Greenaway, Gabriel Klasmer & Shia Klasmer, Christian Marclay, Javier Mariscal, SDNA, David Shrigley & RCA, where Ron Arad also teaches. Each of these films is perhaps 10 minutes in length and they play in sequential order. I stayed for a good hour, and saw 6 of the 9 films. Impressive, since I generally find projection booths in art galleries hard places to be for any length of time, and generally choose not to go in them.
What I love about this project is its sense of freedom. For a start it's "pay what you can", which immediately feels liberating. For a second, it's up to you how you interact with the installation.
The space inside the circle is like a vessel which captures the light. Outside of the circle, you can get lost in the darkness. Naturally, given the translucency of the silicone, the projections can be viewed from either inside or outside.
And of course where you are affects how you behave and react. Inside the space, the general consensus seemed to be that you could sit or lie down in the space - a respectful communal experience. Outside, you could walk, dance, run wild, react to the images, patterns on the floor and superb sound design - of course this meant you were more open to the idea of interacting with the curtains itself. One particular film "Waking Dream " by SDNA was especially good in this respect. A series of figures appeared and then disappeared in a fascinating choreography of appearance, disappearance and rotation (around the 360˚). It made me want to be equally playful with the figures. I could walk towards them and walk away from them. And maybe they stood there long enough for me to be able to dissolve the figures by running my hands through the strips, before the figures themselves disappeared, sometimes themselves yanked or pulled out of the frame by some invisible arm. I wasn't the only person having a good time in the darkness: swathes of children turned up, played with the curtains, reacted to the images and sounds and disappeared again into the darkness. How liberating to be in an installation where there are no rules!
Photo/ words Dody Nash: Installation Ron Arad projection by Gabriel Klasmer & Shia Klasmer