‘Left Hand To Back Of Head’ at the Bluecoat is an usual exhibition focusing on feelings and senses, and the connections between them. The exhibition is deliberately strange and unsettling, at some points even nauseating. It features artworks by eight artists in the mediums of film, performance, photography and installations with the aim of affecting us on a personal level. The exhibition likes to associate itself with the word “visceral”, creating inward feelings.
The first piece in the exhibition is a film by Marianna Simnett called ‘Blue Roses’. For the most part it features the artist hanging upside down whilst singing a song about varicose veins. However, the piece has a profound eeriness and sinister tone, with researchers experimenting on cockroaches by adding mechanical parts to them, showing a lack of control through the power of mechanics. This then cuts to another surreal scene with the veins being removed, with the title ‘Blue Roses’ referring to the veins, which relate back to the uncontrollability of the cockroaches whilst being operated on. Before she explodes in a rather bizarre Monty Python ‘wafer-thin mint’ style.
The next room consists of work from the artist Mitra Savoury, which includes her filling her mouth with grit and spitting it out. In a similarly odd theme to the first work, she uses her mouth engage with the urban environment. Through this she confronts urbanisation by becoming it, through filling her body with it. These make for an uncomfortable but fascinating watch.
From here, the exhibition seems to slightly loose its theme as the next room is filled with old-style TVs, large speakers and studio lamps, with no relatable narrative it feels more like an assortment of standard contemporary art fare. Next to the installation, is an equally irrelevant collection of T-Shirts that have been covered in cement. The next room features two shelves on a wall, in many ways the ultimate art joke. This is meant to represent the relationship between a ‘mother’ and ‘father’ shelf, however it feels about twenty years too late. Although, the shower curtain photographs by the same artist (Becky Beasley) are quite interesting and create a three-dimensional effect.
The exhibition returns to its theme of odd films with ‘The Wrestler and the Crab’ by Hannah James. This consists of an interview of an Iranian student learning English and talking about sport, that can be listened to through headphones and the visuals of a crab on a small screen that requires you to sit on the floor directly in front of it. This creates a connection between the movements of the crab and the audio, as the crab mirrors the feelings that are expressed through the interview, because the crab is out of it’s natural environment and so is the student.
The final room features only a projection of a large coloured rectangle on the floor with music increasing in volume and pace. The colour of the square, changing from white to pink and purple reflects on the white walls of the gallery, colouring the entire room. It is also possible to walk under the projection and become part of the artwork yourself by creating shadows. This installation work doubles up as a performance space on some days. The work certainly creates feelings of intensity and wonder, as the colours and beat builds.
Overall, the exhibition creates a human response of sense and feeling, which is what it explicitly sets out to do. Although, the exhibition does wander from the theme and seem like a storage space at some parts, it is still both entertaining and unsettling in equal measure.
Image: Still from the film ‘Blue Roses’ by Marianna Simnett.