Review: Ron Arad’s Curtain Call, Roundhouse

Virtual Reality is in vogue: we are presented with numerous opportunities to be surrounded by artificial atmospheres. But if wearing goggles isn’t your thing, Ron Arad’s Curtain Call offers a digital installation experienced in 360 degrees, and it really is mesmerizingly immersive.

Stretching from floor to ceiling, Arad’s round space consists of 5600 white silicon rods that are suspended from an 18-metre diameter ring, creating a highly flexible canvas that looks static and solid, but when moved flows like a curtain. Collaborating with numerous artists, a series of films are projected onto this canvas. The structure sits beautifully in the Roundhouse’s round space, complimenting its shape and features rather than overpowering it.

There are a wide variety of short films and they all use this unique space very well. Christian Marclay’s Pianorama features an endless piano and at least three sets of hands, creating a playful and melodious short. SDNA’s Walking Dreams is the perfect example of how dance and human physicality can collaborate with technology to create something uniquely rhythmic and cohesive. It also takes advantage of the opportunity of a circular space and alternates between splitting attention and guiding it. The fact that some pieces are hypnotic and often a bit trippy, while others are playful and humorous proves the installation’s versatility.

During this particular viewing the spectators were scattered around the space, mostly sitting in the middle, and towards the end some of them even lay down. The canvas looks impressive from the outside as well, offering two very different perspectives. It is really a very welcoming space and allows you to take in the experience however you want. I just wish the audience members were more encouraged to really engage with the space: the curtain looked its best when it moved whenever someone entered the circle. During Javier Mariscal’s Colours Always Are Beautiful I had the sudden urge to stand up and dance to the lively music, or to move the curtain, but felt it was inappropriate since everyone else was watching the footage peacefully. However, the installation is marketed as “interactive”, and I really felt it lacked that element as it felt like a missed opportunity.

If you have never been to the Roundhouse, this is a great piece to see on your first visit. If you have been to the venue and know the building, this is your chance to see a piece that utilises and compliments its shape perfectly.

Ron Arad’s Curtain Call is playing at Roundhouse until 29 August 2016. 

Image: Stuart Leech