In ‘Equanipolis’, Aniara Omann has created two distinct yet coherent spaces. The Glasgow-based artist uses sculpture, textiles and animatronics to–in the tradition of science fiction–imagine the forms which might populate a version of our future where, according to the gallery’s information, “the boundary between symbol and material is blurred”.
The first space in Hull’s Humber Street Gallery houses three individual works, though the cumulative effect is that of a fully immersive installation. The first work is a series of resin-cast seashells fixed around the walls of the room at almost-eye level. A looped six minute track invokes the cadences of meditative music, but in a way which unsettles. At the centre is an animatronic sculpture called ‘Lucy’ (2019), named in reference to the believed remains of the first human. The sculpture is a face which gently twitches and blinks, as if existing in some sustained state between wakefulness and hibernation.
Gallery Two features Omann’s sculptures, ‘Unname the World’ (2019), which are the stand-out works of the show. Wooden and animalistic, these sculptures hinge and bend like an artist’s mannequin - though for the purposes of this show they are now fixed and motionless. They are expressive in their poses, some sat as if propped up against a table, another extended up against a wall. Each form is adorned with a single piece of vintage clothing. The precision of their positioning means they each have a distinct energy or personality: some seem distressed, others confidently poised. As a result, the atmosphere in the room is tense with the possibility of movement or interaction. After seeing the show, every hairline crack in one’s peripheral vision might be an ambiguous creature.
The gallery is strewn with real seaweed harvested from Scarborough, which fills the space with a damp tingle of sea air. Humber Street Gallery is moments away from Hull marina, with views of the Humber estuary and out towards the sea. On a grey Tuesday afternoon it can feel windswept and exposed, literally at the edge of the world.
In a supporting essay by Greg Nijs (‘un/imagining us or the stories we live by’), he discusses “the boundary work between ‘us’, ‘it’ and ‘them’”, stating that “we are all always already prosthetic”. Operating more in the realm of performance and prop-making than as a literal attempt to model the future, Omann’s show is a striking example of the work that exists at the boundary between motion and stillness, bodies and artifice.
Humber Street Gallery is an Absolutely Cultured Project.