‘Immersive’ has to be one of the most overworked words of the past few years – from art to theatre to dining to film, all kinds of experiences are promoted this way. And as with all terms that carry a heavy cultural load, it’s pretty much lost its meaning. Which isn’t to put the blame at the door of this new show by Danish artist Joachim Koester, described in part as an ‘immersive installation’. As you lie down on one of the raised padded platforms, put on a pair of headphones and listen to the white noise-laden, relaxing audio journeys (‘your limbs are getting heavier’) Koester made in collaboration with Stefan A. Pedersen, you’d be forgiven for blissing out over the 20-odd minutes of each recording as a hypnotic voice slowly guides you through various fictional museums. But when did such a thing stop being simply an audio installation?
Regardless, the main focus of this show is video. The best of which is the newly commissioned ‘Maybe This Act, This Work, This Thing’, featuring vaudeville actors gesturing, moving and not-quite-dancing as they appear to grapple with a modernity set to make them obsolete. The framing is tight, the performers on form, and the nimble combination of pathos and comicality is compelling. Another new film, ‘Ghost Mantis’, doesn’t appear to have a centre, nor does the overcooked ‘The Place of Dead Roads’, a film with more gesticulators, this time women and men dressed as cowboys. These films feel weighed down by theory – with the dancers and movers trying (or so it seems) to shirk off the albatross that is conceptual art for conceptual art’s sake.
Two absolute highlights are photos from the series ‘In Morning of the Magicians’, taken at a villa in Sicily, with graphic graffiti left by occultist egomaniac Aleister Crowley and his followers. The other is the reading room, an extension to the main exhibition, called ‘Lepidoptera Lodge’, filled with a cornucopia of books. This collection of artefacts touches on something deep and mysterious, creating a space where you suddenly (and finally) find yourself, yes, immersed.