REVIEW-Albion Waves at Bloomberg SPACE- My mum used to own a conch shell. A huge pink thing, that when held against your ear took you through the swooping currents and crashing waves that formed its route into my parent’s house. Pressing my ear against its cavity I caught its sonic resonances, which existed as reminders of its past, audibly swelling and contracting as if taking in its own shallow breaths.
Tucked away in an unassuming office building that houses the spectacular London Mithraeum sits Oliver Beer’s Albion Waves. Formed of an audio-visual installation punctuated with responding paintings, Beer’s work offers a sensory experience that explores themes of meditation, time and memory, and the jigsaw of collected thoughts, experiences and paraphernalia that all combine to form the latter. Nestled within a small side street in London’s financial district, Albion Waves offers a truly untainted opportunity for mindfulness which provides respite from the City’s neverending beat.
At the centre of the show is a quivering lung formed of 28 vessels all suspended from the ceiling. Within each object Beer has thrust a microphone in order to amplify their own unique hum, echoing the similar whispers of my mother’s conch shell. Each sound swirls and sloshes at their own pace, creating an orchestra of reverberations that flex between harmony and dissonance. Formed of a mixture of vessels spanning 2AD to the present day, Beer’s site-specific installation pays homage to the Mithraeum’s 14,000 collected objects and is as much a celebration of the individual objects themselves as it is the act of preservation and conservation.
A casserole dish, decorative frog, milk jug and more are amongst the menagerie of pots and ephemera that the artist has chosen. Each given their own distinct ‘voice’ from the moment they were originally created, Beer balances the proposed infinity of these pieces (as artefacts whose physical form and sonic resonance could outlive us) with the fragility of their material – each ceramic or porcelain piece is suspended in front of the Mithraeum’s cracked and fragmented objects; serving as a reminder of their potential fate. Beer’s work is as unintentionally set on displaying the reality of being present, as it is a reflection on the infinity of time and the preservation of the past. It darts through all three existences, thus bending time through its representation of sound.
Albion Waves is a stunning example of a considered, yet stripped-back concept that can be viewed in many ways and it has continued to impact me since the first time I sat with it. Its beauty lies in multiple things:
In how it provides a platform for such an overlooked idea – the sound found in negative space.
In how it is placed within such an unassuming setting within the culturally sparse City of London.
In how it forms a tranquil and reflective space for art and intriguing little objects that may mean nothing whatsoever to someone beyond just being ‘nice’ – and this is ok!
It is both art for the sake of beauty that retains a sense of conceptual mysticism, and by crossing these two capabilities it remains accessible. Offering the perfect excuse to escape the office (and maybe even reality) for a bit, I implore you to go see it.
Albion Waves is on at Bloomberg SPACE at the London Mithraeum until 15th July 2023.