Teasingly titled ‘Sun room’, Dan Walwin’s exhibition channels the viewer through a semi-darkened space, within which watery flows are both depicted on screen and suggested by architectural interventions that amplify the gallery’s material infrastructure.
The first of these interventions occurs at the entrance. The door leading from the (canal-side) exterior into the gallery has been fitted with a metal framework bearing a grid of six flat video screens, all hung on their sides so the image is rotated. Multiple axes of disorientation are at work here, because the hinged action of the door as it swings inwards to emit new entrants effectively pushes the viewer backwards, into the gloom. All six screens display details of the same bleak grey brown landscape, initially indeterminate in scale. Apart from the green grass visible at the edge of the frame, these contoured valleys might be fragments of a lunar landing site, but they could equally be no larger than tyre-tracks. In reality, the videos depict a concrete model of the Mississippi river, about a kilometre in length.
This play with scale and orientation extends throughout the gallery, which is filled with an architecture of flat and curved dark green wooden panels, suspended on metal frames protruding from ceilings and walls. Some of the frames are constructed around radiators or other fixtures, while others are augmented with sections of drain-piping. Despite these allusions to plumbing, the environment constructed in the gallery defies categorisation; the panels might be the remnants of a temporary polling station, offering makeshift privacy, but they also resemble feeding stalls for animals. In practical terms, they also serve as impediments to viewing, particularly in relation to the only large scale video projection, installed to the left of the entrance. Although scale and orientation are again in question, the shooting location in this instance is more obviously a waterway. Small objects (sticks and leaves) float gently on a sunlit surface toward the camera and a slowly moving pale hand is captured in close-up, its fingers gently wriggling in the water, enmeshed in a clump of luminous green seaweed. These dreamlike sequences are intercut with more forensic images of a man, visible from the neck down, engaged in purposeful yet mysterious activity.
Elsewhere in the gallery, two suspended video screens (covered with transparent orange filters) display similar, but not identical, views of an engorged river. Its banks are crowded with observers of a tidal bore that surges inland, to be greeted by a hopeful but probably over-optimistic surfer. In earlier works, Walwin has used drones and robotic arms to propel the camera through space, articulating a vantage point that is both machinic and otherworldly. The video components of ‘Sun Room’ are far more muted in their effects; even the tidal bore is visually unspectacular. Yet they are integral to this exhibition, which transforms the gallery space into a model environment for the observation of watery bodies and the channels through which they are continually formed and transformed.