contemporary art, installation art, literature, sculpture

Bedwyr Williams, Stevenson Screen (2012)

June 7, 2012

Whether you call it a weatherbox or, more correctly a Stevenson Screen, this object provokes even more curiosity than usual. It doesn’t belong in a gallery. It doesn’t often exude a blue light.

The light comes from a speaker wired up in there to make this sculpture appear sentient twice over. It glows and it also, growls, grunts, and gurgles.

Impossible movie buffs will recognise the soundtrack from the transformation scene in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931). Art buffs may know Douglas Gordon also used this.

But here it has been repurporsed to look at the relationship between Robert Louis Stevenson and his father Thomas Stevenson, inventor of the apparatus.

The screen offers limited exposure to the elements in the same way, as creator Williams explains, that all parents everywhere might try to bring up their child. It appears nurturing.

Yet Thomas and Robert may have had alter egos. Hyde goes on the rampage and tramples a child. Of what might the father of the father of that monster have been capable?

Hyde sounds as if he could break out of the cage. That would be the next act. But the polite gallery goer will look on from his or her own cage content to live as a Dr Jekyll.

But RLS did break out. Williams is fascinated by Stevenson Jnr’s reappearance in the South Seas “dressed in a Sarong”. That must be the result of some violent change or other.

Though for now we find him still boxed in a gallery, on the cusp of escaping his father: a great writer produced by a great engineer, in the persona of a surely great chemist.

Stevenson Screen can be seen in Bedwyr Williams: My Bad at Ikon, Birmingham,until July 8 2012. See gallery website for more details and/or Culture24 to see what the artist had to say about this piece.

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