Exhibition visit: Bates’s Room – Shin Kiwoun at the Old Police Station

by Philip Gowman on 13 March, 2016

in Event reports and reviews, Exhibition reviews and comment, Hanmi Gallery, Shin Kiwoun (신기운), Video art

The Old Police Station in Deptford is an interesting, slightly claustrophobic space for exhibiting art. A reception area with, behind, four gloomy holding cells whose walls are clad in ceramic tiles. Given the lack of light, it’s particularly suitable for showing video works. And the oppressive atmosphere was particularly suited to Shin Kiwoun’s  theme which, following the theme of Hitchcock’s Psycho, looked at the inner workings of the human mind.

The eerie corridor leading to the cells

The eerie corridor leading to the cells (photo courtesy the artist)

The work on show in the reception area announced that we had some mindgames in store: a video of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation slowly being consumed in flames. The text inspired the makers of the hit movie The Matrix, and we were immediately put on notice to question the level of reality we were experiencing.

The first room in Shin Kiwoun's exhibition

The first room in Shin Kiwoun’s exhibition (photo: LKL)

From the external to the internal, as you walked down the corridor to the dark cells. The first room’s theme was schizophrenia – a video work which looked at the light and dark sides of the human personality, and within both sides a myriad of discordant voices: a mosaic of different takes of the same actor reciting the same French poem – Charles Baudelaire’s Le Poison.

The second room in Shin Kiwoun's exhibition

The second room in Shin Kiwoun’s exhibition (photo courtesy the artist)

Inside the second room, a more restful experience as we were asked to regress to our earliest infancy, lie down on the functional bed and look at the ceiling and the childish images being projected.

The third room

The third room (photo courtesy the artist)

The third cell recalled some of Nam June Paik’s works, particularly TV Buddha. But this installation was designed to be interactive rather than contemplated at a respectful distance. A candle was being videoed, and the image being projected onto the cell wall behind the candle. That image was itself captured in the video and projected back, resulting in an infinite regression as if you were looking into a corridor of mirrors.

The third room

The third room – the artist demonstrates some of the possible mirror effects with his hand (photo: LKL)

Add into the video circuit a time delay and a feature for flipping the image along its vertical axis and you had a set-up for endless amusement as you waved your hand gently in front of the camera trying for the best video effects on the wall.

The fourth room (photo courtesy the artist)

The fourth room (photo courtesy the artist)

After all the complexity and infinity encountered in the third room the fourth was the complete opposite: simple, bounded and confined.

Inside the box (photo courtesy the artist

Inside the box (photo courtesy the artist)

Through a hole cut in the side of a cardboard cookie box you had to peer into the darkness to see some images on a tablet computer – like poking your nose into a doll’s house.

So which room is Bates’s room? The truth is that they could all be: the ceramic tiles echo the famous shower scene; the venue itself recalls Marion’s paranoia about the police; the use of mirrors and reflections pays tribute to one of Hitchcock’s trademark techniques; and of course the exploration of the split personality, the sense of entrapment, and the regression to childhood are all themes which serve to make up one of the most iconic movies ever made.

Bates’s Room was at the Old Police Station 15 December 2015 – 5 January 2016.

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