Review: Rose English: A Premonition of the Act

December 18, 2015
  • Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Camden Arts Centre

Camden Arts Centre takes Rose English’s neat exploration of movement and fragility and spreads it incredibly thinly over two and a half rooms, resulting in a jumbled and at times baffling collection of sounds and objects.

You enter into a blacked-out room to the sound of a grand 10-voice chamber opera. On the walls are what look like pages torn from a text book featuring images of a troupe of Chinese gymnasts and a glass-blowing workshop in Sunderland. Spot-lit, hand-written notes bestow a series of incomprehensible messages like “secular liturgy”, “synaptic circus” and “architectural edifice”. To get to them you have to avoid tumbling over the chairs that are dotted at random in the dark space. Eventually you piece together that English made some stuff out of blown glass – jars, goblets, a circus diablo – and got some Chinese kids to balance it on their heads while she filmed it. I’m pretty sure there are several thousand more succinct ways of imparting this information.

A second room features a trio of documentary films of the aforementioned gymnasts practicing their act, all of which are simple and beautiful, and nicely complemented by the jagged, ethereal music. Next to the screens are some of the blown glass objects, which look impossibly thin and delicate next to the physics-defying show. The small reading room shows another video with footage of an actual show by the troupe. It would make for a captivating video installation, a small part of a bigger whole, but there simply isn’t enough here to fill the space; the entire exhibition feels like an improbable balancing act on the verge of a messy collapse.

First published in City A.M.