Review: Thin Air at The Beams ★★★★ | Blindmouth at The Albany Deptford ★★★★★ – New Art Now
The world of art is shifting from inaccessible high brow to dazzling spectacle (and lasers!) with Thin Air – and also with Blindmouth, a night of spoken word poetry which feels more like a Stormzy gig.
Welcome to the future of art in London.
Thin Air | The Beams, Pontoon Dock | Wednesday to Sunday from 17 March-14 June 2023 | £25/20
This monumental exhibition of light art delivers East London’s secret Docklands into a spectacular digital future.
Get your urban explorer on and head to new centre for culture The Beams – a stone throw from the otherworldly dystopian environs of London City Airport. If you really want an adventure (and if you’re heading to The Beams from SE London), take a ride on the Woolwich ferry (free for. cars and foot passengers), or otherwise take a joyride on the DLR to find this gallery/club/culture centre which is part of newish co-working development The Factory. You won’t be disappointed.
The heavily touted and place-making (see gentrification) Thin Air exhibition, however commercial it may undeniably be, is a hit. Dazzling light installations are integrated into the industrial concrete jungle beautifully. The showstopper is 404.zero’s gigantic and pulsating main room, which feels like an empty nightclub or abandoned spaceship cargo hold, which takes you to another dimension. Another highlight is the quieter but equally stunning Kimchi and Chips with Rosa Menkma, which uses prisms and rainbows as a shortcut to a heavenly feeling of calm.
The exhibition does peak a bit too soon – that 404.zero space is second up and can’t be topped – and the final rooms feel like a bit of an afterthought, where you are transported back into a quite ordinary contemporary office refit. Other more cynical critics have mentioned the show’s lack of meaning and ultimate encouragement of social media narcissism i.e. art for selfies. But for us, this misses the point of pure cathartic emotion derived from light, and the joy of digital sharing culture that opens up art to a huge audience (and inspires us all to be more creative too).
A big wow at the end, or a change of route, would have added a star to this otherwise entertainingly unusual and unmissable showcase of futuristic art.
Caleb Femi x SLOGhouse present Blindmouth at Deptford Literary Festival | The Albany, Deptford | 18 March | £10
Caleb Femi is the voice we all need, showcased at this exquisitely curated night of words, beats and truth at The Albany.
Blindmouth is the headline event at the wonderful Deptford Literary Festival, made by incredible writer development charity Spread the Word. The 360° immersive experience, bathed in blue light, proves the need for stories, words and politics to shift beyond of the literary salon and onto the streets.
The way the night is curated shouldn’t work – but it does, and it moves spoken word events from awkward silence into loud gig energy demanding political and social change. This is the future of spoken word right here: the audience wanders freely, DJs Latekid & fwrdmtn blast beats and samples, and insightful, beautiful words are spoken, almost sung.
The highly charged work and delivery of Caleb Femi (writer of seminal text Poor) is a standout, but the party really is an ensemble feast of next generation talent. Danielle Wilde’s wit and Dillon Kalyabe’s frankness are impressively showcased, their impressive written work thriving in this live and potentially exposing format. The ensemble performance feel brave and like nothing we’ve seen or heard before.
The Albany as a venue sadly disappointed, with a ramshackle, laissez faire attitude to welcoming guests. Audience members had to wait in the cold as the doors didn’t open on time, and then the bar was closed until after the performance. The venue – our local – needs to live up to its community ethos, and increase its opening times. Programming more events like this, and properly supporting them, would be a good start.
To link into the world Caleb Femi and SLOGhouse create, the venue should be always open and programming more events like this. Caleb for artistic director perhaps?! Understanding the outside world is key to relevant art and cultural events – for example, doors being open on Saturdays, when the Deptford Junk market brings Douglas Square to life, would give the public access to this important civic venue.
Overall an eye-opening and exhilarating dive into how unboring poetry can be in 2023 – whilst also highlighting what The Albany needs to do much more of.
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.