Experimenta Under the Radar

FACT Centre, Wood Street
18th June – 28th August 2006

Reviewed by Hana Leaper

Experimenta - now celebrating its twentieth birthday with this exhibition of media arts - is FACT’s sort of older, Australian sister (which seems quirkily inverted) institute; formed to commission, exhibit and promote media art in an engaging and accessible way. The aim of both institutes is to offer a physical and critical matrix in which artists and audiences can engage in new possibilities for delivering, displaying and experiencing film and video art works.

This travelling celebratory exhibition of the most creative of antipodean filmic art – as commissioned or nurtured by Experimenta - is most serendipitously housed by the FACT exhibition spaces/media lounges. The darkened rooms which house them may seem intimidatingly arty or sensorially inaccessible from the outside, but as soon as you step in, you’re transported by the works into the installations themselves - many of which blur the lines between the ‘real’ and the ‘virutal’ worlds, and the role of the artist and viewer. The information sheet provided is quite useful in facilitating your leap from the bright sunshine of outside to the strange video gallery world, it’s also reassuring as the viewer is required to engage with the installations to physically to trigger the art to ‘work’. It could potentially leave one feeling a little foolish and uncertain. Instead it’s enlivening and endearing as well as unnerving and thought-provoking.

In fact (or at Fact!), the very size of the exhibition provides half of the joy. Under the Radar consists of a grand total of eleven pieces, allowing you to properly experience and engage with each object, rather than (as is the case with many other exhibitions, especially those of avant garde intent) being overwhelmed by the scale of works which you’re supposed to observe, experience and assimilate (or in some cases by the level of facile pseudo-intellectualism which you’re supposed to somehow bring yourself to appreciate). It’s possible – in fact (heh heh) recommended, that you exeunt from whichever gallery you ‘do’ last with a chirpy grin and a mischievous swagger, feeling excited, simulated, inspired and a wee bit cheeky in the knowledge that you’ve spent a few hours not only improving your art-world cache, but PLAYING and enjoying the experience. Better than emerging sadly wilting from the physical and mental strain of trekking round another full scale gallery that you know you should be enjoying, but, in all honestly, would really rather have been at the bar.

The pieces that comprise Under the Radar each have various levels of physical and critical interaction available – you can ponder the effects of distorted time, space and reality, consider meta-critically the relationship between viewing and voyeurism when confronted with pieces which utilising motion-sensitive software, or simply fall for the charms of a cuddly sofa. S’up to you, the artists have provided the set – you write the script.

For more information visit: www.fact.co.uk

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