Sprung a Leak – Cécile B. Evans
Tate Liverpool, Until 19th March 2017
Words, Leyla Gurr
The usually analogue experience of a gallery visit can often be comfortingly familiar. You wander from room to brightly lit room absorbing a special kind of beauty reflecting your own experiences. Matisse’s torn strips of paper are the tears in the collages your children bring home from school. The brush strokes in Picasso’s thickly applied paint, reflect the way you repainted a wall at the weekend. Ordinary parts of your day, reassembled to create something resonant and moving. The human experience, seen through the mastery of every given artistic medium.
Analyse more contemporary pieces through this window however, and they often fall short of the more traditional painters and sculptors. It’s difficult to form an emotional connection with a sterile collection of plastic or a few lines of biro on a white page. It takes more effort, it seems, to find that comforting beauty in the ultra-modern.
Not so with ‘Sprung A Leak’, the latest exhibition put together by Cécile B. Evans, currently on display at Tate Liverpool until the end of March 2017.
At first glance the three act play seems like the strangest send up of theatre that you’ll ever lay eyes on. The eclectic cast, made up of three robots (two humanoid, one fenced off canine) and a collection of people displayed on monitors whilst swirling around poles, could be a little hard to comprehend. It’s easy to see how people may pass through the room before the troop have had a chance to speak their piece. But stick around for a few minutes and you are quickly reeled in by what they have to say.
Evans has spent some time observing the state of the human condition in recent years. With ‘Sprung A Leak’, it is our relationship with technology and the dissemination of information through it which she has so excellently echoed.
Entering the play from the beginning, you are taken through several interactions between the physical robots and the dancing humans shown on the screens. The dialogue is vague, purposefully so, as you can project your own version of current affairs onto each act. Parts parody the rise and fall of the internet star and celebrity culture, others take a more political stance.
There is talk of coups and summits, contradictory pieces of information fly from machine to machine. The inspiration, taken from the so called right and left wing media malaise from which the news channels seem to suffer so heavily in recent years, is stark. The choice to present the robots as physically in the room with the audience and the humans on monitors is also not without irony. The feeling that the technology around us is somehow more solid than the people we talk to with it is evident throughout.
You can interpret ‘Sprung A Leak’ in a number of ways, and perhaps this is one of the things that makes the exhibition worth a visit. Like the great masters of traditional art, Evans has created something that reflects the beautiful and yet somehow terrible aspects of contemporary life.
Our technology frees us and allows us to think and create in an infinite space. To communicate and learn, touch people and push them away at a whim. Shut ourselves into a bubble or open ourselves to the world around us in ways we could never have dreamed. ‘Sprung A Leak’ simply begs a moment of your time to raise the question, is it working out quite as well as we want to believe that it is?