The room is poorly lit, except for the spotlight beaming down from the gun metal lighting rack bolted to the concrete ceiling. The exhibition space is huge yet the small pool of light from the spot creates a threatening, claustrophobic atmopshere. The chair in the centre is bolted to the floor just like the lighting rack. The effect is austere, utilitarian. The invite only audience barely breathes.
The figure strapped to the chair has stopped shaking now. His blood mixes with the body paint to form a muddy brown colour, like earth or shit. The spotlight glares down like God as he breathes his last. The chair has done it’s job, the mechanism triggered by the application of body weight to the seat panel.
The idea behind it is not dissimilar to an Iron Maiden or any number of other torture devices, in execution though this has greater subtlety. The blood appears to have been literally squeezed out of him though in truth what we have just witnessed involves the application of almost invisible blades to the various major arteries and veins. The whole thing took just minutes.
We, the invited, stand together in silence until the architect of this vision steps forward into the spotlight and takes his bow. We applaud and he places his hands flat into the blood then wipes them liberally across his white suit. He has done this every night of the show. Each night a new suit. They will be preserved, along with each of the chairs and their volunteer occupants, treated and displayed, viewed for years to come.
Brian, my plus one, says, ‘Well, that wasn’t a patch on the Tate’s Roadcrash exhibition last month.’
I stare at the dead man strapped to a chair designed to literally cut the life from him and I say what everyone here is thinking.
‘Indeed, there’s no denying the visceral thrill of this installation series, but really, is it Art?’