Continuing my Preview of the Greenland Street complex, the second building is the Furnace which did indeed at one time house a large furnace, the tall chimney stack is still there. It now has an ‘a’ painted on it.
Taking up the whole of the large space is ‘Sleep of Ulro’ by Goshka Macuga. This is a huge installation which has been specially commissioned by the a-foundation for the Biennial.
It was still being built but we were able to explore most of it, there are steps up to odd-shaped towers and a sort of gallery inside which will display works by other artists.
Sleep of Ulro sees Macuga working in collaboration with If-Untitled Architects to create an all-encompassing environment.
Inspired by Renaissance ideas of different levels of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory and the pioneering set design of the early Expressionist film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Sleep of Ulro uses the dynamic architecture of The Furnace and creates elevated walkways, a complex of corridors filled with display cabinets, hidden rooms and antechambers. The installation also explores somnambulism, the in-between state referred to by William Blake in Jerusalem (1804) as ‘a state which man must go through to awaken to eternal life and the divine vision of unity’.
Macuga curates a series of theatrical tableaux, performances and exhibitions of artworks, objects, artefacts and curiosities within the installation to explore the tension between the spiritual and the material. Works by L S Lowry, Paul Nash, Richard Hughes, Melvin Motte, Yoshihiro Suda, Will Hunt and Tony Matteli sit alongside botanical models and samples of meteorites and collaborations with artists Olivia Plender and Simon Moretti.
Macuga’s work re-defines the categories of curator and gallery by often hosting the work of other artists within her own ‘environments’. Her installations question authorship and hierarchies of value inherent within ‘High Art’.
Goshka Macuga: Sleep of Ulro at The Furnace, Greenland Street, 15th September – 26th November 2006