Following an over-saturation of similarly-made fringe theatre, it’s sometimes refreshing to see something a bit different. So Flemish artists Steve Salembier and Charlotte Bouckaert come along at the right time, treading some rather alternative boards.
Like opening a flicking photo album, or rather, in modern terms, like scrolling an Instagram profile, the artistic collaborators walk the line between physical and emotional construction by breathing life into still images. They combine visual art with visual structure in a smart synthesis of photography and architecture, making Bildraum (appropriately meaning ‘image space’).
A slow and tentative start sees Salembier building the first of many miniature models, which stirs an aching anticipation which keeps the edges of seats occupied. The entry of Bouckaert brings in the photographic element of the piece which progresses it nicely. The pair working in sensitive symbiosis with stances strangely mesmerizing, calm and collected, we watch eagerly for the photos to form into stringed narratives.
The duo orchestrate and imply impressions of a variety of familiar spaces which are projected onto a large screen, with light manipulation giving it an impressively futuristic quality. Microcosmic bedrooms, dinner tables and poolside settings are blown up into macrocosmic contexts.
An ambiguous accompanying soundscape creates an underlying eerie suspense; heavy breathing, occasional looped live guitar and footsteps leading no-where pose questions left unanswered. In return, the audience must use personal associations and filed memories to piece together and sharpen the entire picture. The almost ghostly implications of the accompanying audio serve to keep us guessing, but it also obscures narrative clarity at times. Climaxes don’t reach high enough to feel fully satisfied.
Although the stories seem slow and superfluous from the offset, they gradually gain pace and intrigue as the show continues; the combined means of architectural creation and photographic presentation becomes more abstract, unexpected and captivating. Confusion becomes clarity as half-recognized muffled sounds and initially indistinguishable visuals are then obviously revealed to be an underwater pool dive – the audience bask in these tricks of the light.
But it’s the created scenarios which lie a thousand miles away from the stillness of the room which are the most powerful images conjured by this concept. Ping-pong balls flood bedrooms, sand grains become night-time stormy seas and dusky desert landscapes, leaving gasps of awe and amusement simmering throughout the space.
A reflective and therapeutic antidote to the fringe frenzy, Bildraum shimmers with drama and ambiance.
Bildraum is playing at the Old Lab, Summerhall until August 28.
Photo: Atelier Bildraum