Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance bring Conrad Shawcross’s startling new installation to vivid life, says Sarah Crompton
Of the essence: Conrad Shawcross stands under ‘Timepiece’ Photo: Dan Kilwood/Getty
By Sarah Crompton11:28AM BST 10 Aug 2013Comment
Conrad Shawcross’s new installation is called Timepiece and that is what it is. Three steel structures, like giant pieces of articulated Meccano, unfold in circles across the ceiling of the great Victorian engine shed that is now the Roundhouse.
On the end of each is a single bulb of bright light and as the mighty arms follow their relentless trajectories, these cast shadows which send patterns across the floor, and over the 24 surrounding pillars.
One hinged arm records the passing of the hours, one the minutes, one the seconds so they move at wildly varying speeds. In the centre of the space stands the stark, smooth spike of an aluminium gnomon or sundial.
At different times of the day the shadows coalesce in different ways. Sometimes it is as if the hands of a clock are whirring, sometimes there are great blocks of darkness, sometimes fast moving patterns like the light coming through blinds skitter across the floor, sometimes small blotches of white light appear.
The effects, though programmed, are not predictable and the effect of the piece is subtly disconcerting. It is made more so by Azimuth, the piece that choreographer Wayne McGregor has created to complement it which is performed again on August 11 and 25. His ten dancers emerge from the darkness at the sides of the building and for more than an hour, in silence and to music, they interact with the sculpture and with the light.
Conrad Shawcross: Turning a tramshed into a timepiece 31 Jul 2013
The world of Conrad Shawcross, sculptor 06 Oct 2007
Raven Girl, Covent Garden 25 May 2013
Performing singly and in groups, they take their cues from the movements it makes. This means that they are often looking upwards, into the beams of light raking the space, like primitive creatures watching the great god of Time. Their different reactions are always shadowed by its swinging, relentless pulse.
An azimuth is an angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system, and without necessarily absolutely understanding the full impact of that concept, it is still possible to feel the sense of different bodies measuring themsleves against the absolute.
In some sections,where the dancers discuss possibilities for the next step as they move, the dancers themselves actually look like machines, forcing their bodies into geometric shapes, working co-operatively and in resistance.
At others they lie on the floor, or carve the air with elbows akimbo, looking like statues in the sharp shadows. Sometimes they run; sometimes they dance together in lyrical passages that seem full of the potential of life and love, matched by the soaring soundtrack. But when the next cycle of movement, and of time, begins, these sections are performed in silence and the effect is different.
Its a substantial and interesting work, adding emphasis and richness to an already thought-provoking and deeply beautiful piece of art. Other reactions, from choreographer Siobhan Davies, circus dance performer Iona Kewney and the London Contemporary Orchestra are also happening before the installation closes on August 25.
Hats off to the Roundhouse for such adventurous commissioning. In a time of year that is normally artistically barren, it is wonderful to encounter such illumination.
Until August 25. www.roundhouse.org.uk