Leandro Erlich at The Barbican Gallery, London

If you want to defy the laws of physics, and walk up a brick wall, then this is the place.

Leandro Erlich, Dalston House

The new installation by Leandro Erlich at Dalston House (commissioned by Barbican Gallery) sees a 19th Century Victorian townhouse front, meeting a 45-degree-angled mirror, which enables the defiance of gravity. In this installation, you become both a viewer and a participant, being challenged to manoeuvre your body around the house in front of a large-scale mirror. Architectural space is explored in conjunction with the human figure in a mesmerising optical illusion by the Argentinian artist, who is known for his visual tricks.

Leandro Erlich, Dalston House

An inviting and accessible family-friendly art experience, also provides an accompanying booklet containing quizzes and drawing sections to entertain children whilst waiting in the queue. Now when I say the word ‘queue’, don’t be put off, as it’s just to ensure that there’s not a ‘rampage on the rooftop’, making sure that everyone gets an equal 5 minutes ‘in’ the artwork. This piece is great for encouraging new generations to become interested in art and the history of East London. Architectural regeneration is questioned through a crossing of the past and present: the re-creation of the style of house which used to exist there, evoking ideas of memory and magic. Conjuring conversations regarding the area’s rich history, from private and public spaces to post-war urbanism. The changing face of Dalston is matched by the changing shapes created on the house front by human figures. The figure is a central component, as it is the viewer’s participation and changing body positions which cause the work to come to life.

The mirror is a simple, yet powerful tool, whose purpose is to reflect. Yet as a symbolic material, a mirror has so many powerfully poetic connotations involving humanity, culture, and the idea of ‘self’. It is not often that you get to look into such a large mirror, and the act of seeing your own image in relation to another’s through a reflection is a strange experience. When this scale of reflection is combined with architecture, you start to both understand and question architectural design, art installations, and the wider topic of contemporary culture. This creation of a new perspective through a metaphorical and literal new ‘angle’ is a de-mystified illusion, as its construction is clear and simple. I find that it is in the simplicity of the make-up of this piece that real beauty is found.

Leandro Erlich, Dalston House

Whilst I eagerly waited my turn, it seemed that it was common practice for participants to take numerous photos of themselves in different poses. A reflection of contemporary culture in this social media thriving culture; everyone wants to share and remember this baffling experience. Most who step onto the building front can be seen with camera, smartphone or tablet in hand, poised to capture their participation in the installation on their ‘device’.

So why not visit and try to balance on these bricks? Perhaps you want to perch on a window ledge or do a handstand on top of an architrave? This is hopefully the only time I will recommend for you to climb up a building… oh, and don’t forget to take a photo!

Capture your creativity, this terrific trick awaits.

Leandro Erlich, Dalston House

Leandro Erlich, Immersive Illusions, The Barbican, at Dalston House, 1-7 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London through August 4, 2013

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by Siân Louise Spicer
in Focus on Europe

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