St Davids House, Wood St, Cardiff

After a still hectic post-Black Friday walk through the city centre I reached Saint Davids House and entered into the exhibition Sacred Danger Part II by Uliana Apatina as a part of her work for The Kim Fielding Award. This award was set up following the untimely death of the dynamic artist and curator Kim Fielding in 2014, to continue his legacy in promoting and facilitating experimental contemporary arts practice and nurturing creative communities.

After being selected by a panel of international artists and curators, Apatina worked with the KFA team to create what has now become Sacred Danger and Part II acted exactly as it describes in that it is the second part of Apatina’s overall work. Its aim was to transpose the experience of the physical space of Part I, a site-specific outdoor work at Coed Hills Rural Artspace.

Sacred Danger took its inspiration from trips by the London based Siberian artist to North Wales including Blaeneau Ffestiniog’s disused cave systems. The artist describes how she had never felt such a mixture of awe and fear before and wanted to create a work where these feelings were brought forth, something that seems to be a recurring theme within Apatina’s work.

Part II felt a bit like the installation at Coed Hills replayed through the distorted PA system of a heavy metal band. It acts as the almost hallucinatory experience of the jagged site-specific work, amplified and illustrated within the formal vocabulary of a gallery space.

Walking in to the sectioned off, darkened room seemed like the usual entrance into a video work, but it didn’t take long for the sound and construction to begin playing its own coarse rhythms.

Angled projection screens seemed to be teetering on collapse, whilst curtains of thin white netting blocked any natural pathway through the space, their translucent nature allowing projections of Part I to echo through each thin layer, mimicking the disorientating nature of the site-specific work’s plexiglass reflections. Multi-layered and repetitive sound recordings began to disturb and disorientate, attacking from all angles. Airplanes passing in the distance became more like drones passing too close for comfort, and the eerie scrapings and rubbings of the Sacred Danger structure itself constantly reminded of the visceral nature of its construction.

Whilst it may seem as though Part II would allow a limited spectrum of experience toward Part I, in many ways the opposite could be said to have been true. The virtual nature of audio and film allowed a multiverse to develop, spanning glimpses into both night and day, morning dew and evening sunsets, and vistas from all angles. Much like being enveloped within the site-specific structure itself, the landscape within Part II became a cacophony of differing viewpoints each fighting for attention.

Talking through the intentions behind Part I Apatina disclosed that she originally intended the structure to be made from concrete. Given this admission the plexiglass may seem like a compromise, but it actually adds further unease into the structure and works to not only disturb, but also deceive. The 6mm plexiglass panels it’s comprised of don’t sit comfortably, they bend and move within the huge bolts that sit like bullets from an over-the-top action movie placed on pause. Reflection and transparency also choose to play little games as you enter, one playing tag with the other as each participant tries to decide if there is a way through, either ahead or to the side in the complex zig-zag structure.

Looking at both phases as a whole it’s clear that this was a project of ambition, both by the artist and by the KFA team. Both Part I and Part II have an organic complexity to their construction that’s clearly been allowed to develop in an emergent manner that must have demanded a lot from the artist, the project team, and the engineer (a friend of Apatina’s from back in Siberia). The work felt like a well-articulated essay, but in a way done without the use of words. For me Sacred Danger is a work made for and of experience and as the inaugural KFA it felt both fresh and ambitious and at a scale that should leave all involved proud.