Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery

One Show, Two Cities

Haluk Akakçe at Nottingham Castle

The “most ambitious survey of new and recent developments in art from the UK” has arrived in Nottingham; the multi-faceted British Art show. It opened at the Gateshead Baltic September last year, and includes the piece “Birth of Art”, a video projection of a 3d computer animation made by Turkish artist Haluk Akakçe.

The piece explores nature’s characteristic beauty through abstracted and manipulated organic images rendered in polygons and pixels. It is an elegant and peaceful work that includes moments of startling vibrancy and beauty that are stirring, yet soothing.

Accompanying the piece is an ambient audio composition gently meandering coolly from note to note. The sounds are electronic, but not harsh or brash, more melodic and restful; complementing the imagery.

At the Baltic the piece was shown in a small room with low ceilings, allowing the sound to reverberate clearly; filling the space. It was dark with no extraneous light creeping in, meaning the image on the screen was crisp and appealing. The room was a bubble disjointed from the outside world which let the audience lose themselves in the beauty of the piece. In other words, the work was allowed to speak for itself.

When curation is done well it is unnoticeable, or at least second to the work, but when it is done badly it can be the most conspicuous element of a show and can detract from the art. At Nottingham Castle this was unfortunately the case, where Akakçe’s piece has been done a disservice.

It is projected in a second floor room with electric doors on either side. One door leads to an upstairs hallway with lofty period ceilings and stone stairs, whilst the other is the only entrance to the main room of the British Art Show exhibition; a long and light space with varnished wooden floorboards. The acoustics in both rooms were such that echoing was ripe, with the sound of footsteps, laughter and conversations often overbearing; not to mention the squeak of the hinge and the hum of the doors’ motors themselves.

There is no privacy or seclusion for the work with passers by acting as constant distractions and outstripping the art; people trying to find the café, a procession of French school kids… I was almost expecting a brass band and an elephant. It felt like a corridor rather than an installation.

Shafts of light shone through; inverted silhouettes of the open doors, reflecting on to the screen off the stone floor. Impassable glare murdered the images on screen, making them dull and docile; a real departure from their initial impact in Gateshead.

The Baltic in Gateshead is a museum with ample space for a show such as this, whilst Nottingham, until the construction of the CCAN, is lacking in large art spaces for ambitious exhibitions. The show has been spread between five venues of varying quality. Nottingham Castle has been desperately redefined to accommodate a show that doesn’t fit. The Nottingham Castle seems to have a fairly old-fashioned selection procedure in terms of its policies on exhibitions, with paintings or craft exhibits appearing regularly. They shouldn’t fool themselves, these kinds of shows suit its archaic ramparts; the building was never designed to be a contemporary art gallery and consequently a disjointed and soulless exhibition is produced.

An artist living and working in the east midlands.