…a futuristic nightmare @ Heads may roll exhibition by Benedict Drew at Matt’s Gallery

I read about this exhibition by Benedict Drew in London Architecture Diary. All events advertised in this website are either architectural or somehow related to architecture. This explains my surprise when I entered Matt’s Gallery and initially could not detect the relevance. In the first room the visitors were asked to put on headphones and individually listen to the soundtrack of a video that was projected on a screen.

heads-may-roll1The room was totally white with the light equally diffused from the false ceiling which reminded me a lot of Kubrick’s 2001 Odyssey spaceship-interior. This impression was further verified by the statements projected on the screen which urge the visitor to consider the absence of an outside world.  In the room though the images of unidentified objects, elements of weird texture and dismembered limbs accompanied by digitised sounds do not exactly feel cosy or familiar either. Then one has to go through a curved corridor covered with some sort of aluminium foil.

heads-may-roll2Again a futuristic reference but an almost comedic one as the material looks cheap and it is lined with Christmas lights. After the sci-fi pseudocave one enters a large room with various different things in it: raised platforms, projections, microphones and peculiar sound installations. The sound equipment used look almost retro and the gadgets are connected in an amateur way. The dominant projection in this room is that of a man crying in what seems to be an environment without gravity as the tears stay in his eye cavities without running down his cheeks.

heads-may-roll3Under one of the platforms is an unidentifiable mass of a thing, a blob, that seems to be breathing and close to that, an anthropomorphic mop-creature that once in a while bangs a stick on a drum. There is a sadness in this room. Last but most definitely not least there is a hole in the wall (as if an explosion has occurred), which is covered with red cellophane and through it the canal outside is visible. Everything is red as if something horrible has happened, like an nuclear holocaust. I was fascinated by this incredibly simple intervention on the wall and I cannot stress how intense its effect was.

After looking at the red view of the canal everything fell into place, the connection of the exhibit to architecture as well. First of all I realised that the effect of the red view was so intense because of what had proceeded it. The disconnection from reality and the environment, the hoax of the high-tech promise, the loneliness. To my understanding the narrative of the exhibit actually comes across and makes its point through architectural terms.


Our lives are spent in front of computers on the internet and they do unfold in a sort of a space which is virtual  with no real texture or continuity. This is no news to anyone but we choose to turn a blind eye to the negative points because of the gains in speed and availability of knowledge. In fact by now the disconnection with one another and with real environments due to technology is almost a cliché. Still I do not recall having witnessed lately an expression of this gap as immediate as the one achieved with this exhibit. Maybe this is due to the fact that space is the medium through which the story is told. This is the reason why the message of this exhibit regardless of being obvious is so powerful. Architecture and space are understood and appropriated first viscerally and then cerebrally. And as far as I am concerned the visceral and the experiential overpowers the cerebral with its ambiguity and vagueness nine times out of ten.

The exhibition will be on until the 20th of April

Benedict Drew’s website here

Matt’s Gallery website here

London Architecture Diary website here

1 comment
  1. Rebecca Charles said:

    I’ve just read this… its GREAT!!! xxx

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