Week 2 at Dilston Grove…


Week 2 at Dilston Grove…

By Laura Milnes



I was told to be surprised at the changes that had taken place in Dilston Grove this week. I sort of shrugged it off. How different could it really be? A trickle of yellow ribbon creeps out from under the first door; I open it to find myself in the airlock between the two heavy wooden doors. There is something ominous about the shards of yellow ribbon lying in my path like shredded caution tape. As I push the second door open, something resists, just a little. There is a rustle as, with trepidation, I push the door a little further. Then there is darkness. Under my feet: yet more shredded yellow ribbon, the remnants of Anne Bean’s piece last weekend. It feels as though something significant has happened here – a celebration? a ribbon massacre? I haven’t even crossed the threshold yet. I follow the artist into the space, one careful footstep at a time and my eyes do not adjust. It’s not pitch black by any means, there is light bouncing off heaps and mounds of glimmering yellow ribbon and I hear the sound of people wading. A hiss and rustle as they wade. I still don’t really know what’s going on. I’m incredulous.

I had the arrogance to suggest to myself that I wouldn’t be surprised by what I found behind those doors. I had imagined that I’d like it, certainly, but I wasn’t prepared to be so disorientated. William Cobbing has taken what Anne Bean left behind and re-imagined the space entirely. The ribbon has become a terrain, over which we must tread, weave and hike to reach the video works he has laid out carefully in a journey along the walls of Dilston Grove. A path is suggested but many have no inclination to be polite – the prospect of being knee-deep in these yellow mountains proves too tempting, especially for the many children that have happened upon this place. The dynamic in Dilston Grove shifts dramatically from contemplative, unsettling – a space in much we must re-adjust, visually, physically, aurally – into a thrillingly dangerous place where children dive-bomb into huge swathes of these yellow entrails, connecting each other like a cat’s cradle and passing judgement on the moving images trembling on the concrete walls.

The video works, despite their material differences to the ribbon, speak directly to the concrete of the building and somehow the contrast between the earthy and the synthetic is a perfect compliment to the surroundings. I find myself wondering whether I connect more comfortably with the natural (yet also notably masculine and industrial) clay, sand and cardboard or the endless vitality of the man-made ribbon smiling at me from the floor to my knees. It doesn’t really matter – I feel buoyant in the yellow sea while I stop to watch moving images of a man made of clay, seemingly attacking his own physical form, desperately grasping to understand the mass that is a head of clay, a torso of cold, earthy matter and feet melting into the floor of the very room we’re in. Elsewhere, a perfectly smoothed head is drained of sand, upside down and looking tired, exhausted by the slow trickle of grains cascading from the eyes, the mouth, the ears, the nose. I feel like I’ve been there. I sympathise with this head. In another film, two mobile cardboard boxes attempt a liaison of sorts, bumping ‘this way up’ labels as arms emerge and reach out for each other. If I could be these boxes, if I could read their thoughts, I would guess that this is an attempt by these two material beings to explore what it is that makes them, physically. They do this by exploring each other and trying to make sense of the distance that exists between them, even as they are close. They never quite seem to fit, but their attempt to connect, though fumbly and awkward, is joyous to watch. I’m hopeful for these clumsy boxes.

So the question remains – what next? David Cotterrell has taken the mantle from Cobbing and I imagine he’s in there now, assessing, planning, hoovering perhaps? I’m not going to expect anything next weekend, and I certainly won’t be cocky about what awaits me as I open that heavy wooden door. William Cobbing, you surprised me and David Cotterrell, I have a feeling you’ll do the same. It’s nice to be surprised, isn’t it?

You can catch the culmination of David Cotterrell’s mini residency in Dilston Grove next weekend, followed by Carl von Weiler, Rachel Lowe and Bronwen Buckeridge in following weeks. You can also take a look at the journey of both WAKE and ARCHIPELAGO in pictures on Flickr and the Artsadmin website.

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