contemporary art, Regency architecture

Pablo Bronstein: Sketches for Regency Living

June 14, 2011

There’s an elephant in the room at the ICA. In fact, the elephant is the room. The spiritual home of the avant garde in London is a well-to-do Regency building on the capital’s grandest street.

That alone could have been a reason for industrial band EinstĂĽrzende Neubauten taking pneumatic drills to the floor in 1984, and why the venue chose to recreate this infamous gig in 2007.

Pablo Bronstein responds to tradition in more constructive, dare we say, deconstructive way. The gentility of the place has been accentuated for his current show, or brought into plain sight.

A tromp l’oeil mural in the style of an engraving turns the downstairs gallery into a 19th century plaza. And a dancer in something like period costume turns the plaza into a stage.

But four empty plinths indicate the current function of Nash House. So the performance becomes a painful comment on any prancing around any of us may have done among the artworks here.

So it seems that old fashioned buildings cast their occupants as old fashioned people. And yet there is much to be admired by this silent, ongoing performance which implicates the visitor.

This dance was as erotic as it was mannered. Index fingers beckoned just as they pointed to the heavens. It was both as seductive and elevating as a visit to a gallery like this often can be.

From time to time, the dancer would find herself in awkward positions. There were poses which looked difficult to hold. But if you engage with contemporary arts, you might relate to that too.

The ICA will also be a difficult space to fill now Bronstein has brought home the middle class theatre of the whole affair. At least when the Germans played here, a decent builder could have sorted that.

Pablo Bronstein: Sketches for Regency Living is at ICA, London, until September 25 2011. Check gallery website for details including their extensive co-ordinated programme of events.

But in the meantime, you could check out this piece on trying to demolish the venue by Alexander Hacke in the Guardian, as well as this film of artists trying to do so on YouTube.

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