Often the best art is discovered by chance, when your viewing experience is not yet tainted by the opinions of others. This was the case when Leg of Lamb happened upon Brook Andrew’s commission for the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation in Sydney last week. Encountering a gallery space almost entirely overwhelmed by a mammoth 12.5 metre bouncy castle was a surprise indeed.
In order to experience ‘The Cell’, participants are required to don vividly striped Andrews-designed boiler suits that are in keeping with the castle’s psychedelic, Wiradjuri-inspired patterns. Once you’re zipped up, it’s time to crawl into an op-art playground (in our case passing Jean Sherman and her grandkids en route through a rubbery tunnel).
The cell’s interior is immersive, overwhelming and a whole bunch of fun. Trussed up in comical costumes and thrown into such a stimulating environment, you abandon yourself to the experience and indulge in a lot of running, bouncing and squalking. It’s exhilarating. Which makes the artist’s stance somewhat jarring. He says: ‘It’s like you become an inmate, a cellular astronaut or asylum seeker. Experiences of loss, asylum and genocide are turned on their head. The Cell is a conundrum, a monument to such stories, a space for quiet contemplation, disorientation and spectacle.’
So The Cell’s about genocide? Surely a big blowy bouncy castle isn’t the place for ‘quiet contemplation’? Had I not collected a room sheet, I would have probably remained oblivious to Andrew’s intentions. In hindsight, does this mean it’s wrong to delight in the rectangular confines of the ‘The Cell?
The Cell at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 16–20 Goodhope Street, Paddington, until September 18. This work will also be exhibited at the IMA, Brisbane from 25 September – 20 November.