'Shift': An odd or excellent exhibition?

I was pretty disheartened once I’d worked my way around the Laing Gallery – up the stairs, round all the corners, eventually arriving at the Alysia Anne: Shift exhibition.

On first glance it is completely and utterly unremarkable. A small, quiet room put to one side, with a series of polaroids scattered across the walls. ‘How on earth am I going write anything on this?’, I thought. I took my coat off, and pulled out my notebook – and that’s when I noticed the silence. There was barely anyone in the gallery, let alone this exhibition, and I was completely alone. That is when it all seemed to click. The exhibition is on grief, the “complexities of loss” as Anne notes. There is a relationship between control and accident, and experiencing and processing of human emotion. Despite the hilarious comments in the visitor book, I have to admit that for me, she has been hugely successful in achieving this.

DONT UNDERESTIMATE THIS EXHIBITION. IT’S HAUNTING; THE MORE YOU LOOK, THE MORE IT RESONATES WITH YOU

This installation is modest and unassuming; a beautiful, unfocused spectrum. The subtly in colour, tone and mood can be easily passed by altogether (as I very nearly did) if you don’t take a moment to look, and to really see. Fragmented transitions with each polaroid are severe, ghostlike yet interrupted with block solid dark shapes.

The actual exhibition space, I think, is what brings the installation together. This silent space for contemplation; I could hear church bells, and although through the sliver of window you can see buses and people moving along outside, it doesn’t interfere with your experience. A man holding a baby came in, and stayed no longer than fifteen seconds (enough for me to pretend to not be taking photos and look out the window nonchalantly). Don’t underestimate this exhibition. It’s haunting; the more you look, the more it resonates with you. Stay a while.

There is no particular favourite ‘piece’ to this installation, it is a continual panorama of fragments scattered across the walls, surrounding and engaging you. However, the comments book was absolutely golden, Jil and Sean’s entry “We found the comments book more interesting than that art” sums it up. I sniggered at the anonymous entries of “this is the equivalent of vomit” and “Nice…Tetris for the middle class” – my personal favourites. (More crass ones included “it was nice… but I think they might have accidentally put an ‘f’ in the title” – burn.) I don’t condemn them, its something I would have written if I had come in a group.

TRY NOT TO BE SO SUPERFICIAL; INDULGE IN THE SERENITY, THE SILENCE, THE QUIET

On first glance, it does look a bit crap. It is unimpressive, and unassuming. But try not to be so superficial; indulge in the serenity, the silence, the quiet. The environment and experience are all part of the installation. You could easily be passive, but if you want the most of it stay for a while, and just keep looking. It’ll spark all sorts of thoughts. Go on your own. Go in the morning to avoid all the people, god knows we all hate them, and indulge in the meditative moment of calm and reflection.

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