Changing rooms are charged spaces, rampant with sweat and physicality, with nascent sexual urges and desires.
German artist Anne Imhof feeds on that tension in her new show, taking over four floors of Sprüth Magers. You enter through a narrow passageway lined with lockers. There are paintings across the wall made of manic scratches. The lockers create a maze that spins you through the space, closing you in more and more tightly as you move forwards. Some are empty, some filled with breeze blocks. It’s claustrophobic, tense, uncomfortable.
Upstairs there’s a gym with a weight rack and punching bag, all hefty, industrial ways of shaping your body. You can almost smell the sweat.
The drawings on the top floor are pretty underwhelming, but down in the basement there are more lockers, these ones scrawled with graffiti. There’s a sofa surrounded by bongs and energy drinks. On the screen, Imhof’s collaborator Eliza Douglas sits on a bench topless, she lets out a guttural scream, slaps herself in the face as snow falls all around her and deep throbbing noise pulses out of the speakers.
The whole thing reeks of coming-of-age teen angst, physical awakenings in sweaty rooms, of bodies and weed and frustration and trying desperately to figure yourself out.
It’s very po-faced and humourless, which makes it all feel a bit silly at points. But as an aggressive, stylised, frustrating teardown of macho physicality and wavy sexuality, it’s pretty amazing.