The other day I found myself in the midst of an ‘experience’ – an art experience to be precise. The concept was taken from Leonardo De Vinci‘s obsession with technology and his fear that humanity might abuse it. It was titled ‘In the beginning was the End’ and was set in the underground passages of the beautiful Somerset House. We were led through maze like rooms by artists, each enacting a scene that portrayed our world as murky and disjointed. In each room the actors spoke in a different language to the other and the message that people had stopped understanding the other was surreal at times.
The first room shocked me because of how much I dislike the dark. A woman started speaking in Russian and as her voice rose the room was engulfed in darkness with just the sound of a siren. A pitch black room, a room full of strangers, for a moment I contemplated joining the screaming woman. However, it was the last room that was most unexpected. We were led into the ‘director’s’ room ( a machine had been designed that aimed to relieve stress and we were in the ‘headquarters’) and in wandered a naked employee; as the director ran after the employer to chastise him all her other employers began undressing too in protest. All stark naked – just like that, in a room full of strangers.
My very conservative upbringing formed a voice in my head and begun to wonder if I was ok with this and I was. I was more taken with the confidence of these people but also that the human body away from the tabloid press is very normal. The bombardment of what we think we should look like is not a reality and here the reality was literally in my face. It was comfortable to see normal.
As the now naked artists moved towards the large spectacular spiral staircase to lament their fallen world they were also joined by the director. I found myself cynically watching the scene unfold. They were all illustrating breakdown and suffering. I felt like that the point had missed – the paradox is often, that when one does have a mental breakdown or feel a complete loss of control they are usually fully clothed, in the middle of a ‘functioning’ society and yet feel exposed and isolated. ‘To remove all your clothes’ I thought ‘Is an easy and lazy portrayal of a complex emotional state. I’d rather see them in their suits, evening wear or pyjamas.’ And as I cynically questioned the art they had presented me with, I also realised that they had done what Art should do. It had taken me into a space of reflection, away from my normal; debating Art and Life.