Shunt Vaults

Are moths afraid of the dark?

This is the question that video art duo SDNA – Valentina Floris and Ben Foot – ask in CINETAXIS, their spectacular exhibition in the sepulchral caverns of the Shunt Vaults, deep beneath London Bridge station.

Having spent the past few years observing and filming insects, SDNA made a stunning show of light and movement, filling the vaults with massive projections of the microscopic bodies of insects. Beetles, crickets, spiders – a million times larger than life, creeping along the walls and ceilings of the vaults, transformed and transfigured by the play of light against surface. The strange beauty of the micro-world is revealed in light and colour, the delicate shape of the wing or the antenna is made manifest, wondrous. Strange, hybrid human and insect forms come together through digital manipulation, and blend with the projected image of real live insects, crawling happily in their glass box. What is human, what is insect? Life forms existing together.

'Cinetaxis' is an ongoing project and was inspired by research into phototaxis (insects' automatic reaction to light sources). SDNA were intrigued by this into a desire to explore the reactions of human ‘attraction to light', both real and metaphorical.

As well as the giant projections and accompanying sound installations, SDNA brought together different musicians and artists to contribute to the live show.

Takatsuna Mukai and Lakuti (Süd Electronica) and Electric Lane from Olso, performed live soundtracks to the performances and videos on successive nights.

Nina Fog, Natasha Mayran and Natasha Stanic, wearing marvellous costumes by Caroline Collinge, made a series of performances, weaving around the rooms of the vaults, interacting with the projections, hanging upon the walls. Collinge also presented a wonderful chrysalis-like sculpture, which, in its stillness, counterpointed perfectly the projections of moving insects creeping on the walls around it.

With Cinetaxis, SDNA has created a new collaboration between forms, opening a much-needed dialogue between art disciplines and offering a challenge to the idea of “new media art”. The uses of digital video and electronic music are combined here with more established art forms like sculpture and live performance, in a thoroughly satisfying “total art” experience. A surehanded command of the technology involved, to both expertly film and edit, is evident; and it is married to a spontaneous and free-form creative spirit.

The difficulty with such shows is that they do not /can not take place in the standard gallery context, and so get overlooked as “art,” and thus are sidelined as “mere entertainment.” But art should be entertaining! It should also be thought-provoking and inspirational, which Cinetaxis certainly is.

Think of all the dismal “video art” you've seen, how it disappointed you. This is different. You've never seen anything like this show, I can promise you.