Exhibition – Benedict Drew: KAPUT at Liverpool Walker Art Gallery

Kaput is an art installation by Benedict Drew that occupies two rooms in the Walker Art Gallery.  The information before you enter the first room  warns you of darkness and explains the installation is on the themes of space tourism, day dreams, learning and the power of music.

As you first enter you are greeted by a mock wall of day-glo posters with very psychedelic colours reminiscent of the 80s.  In the main section of the first room are numerous elements, you can’t miss the giant day-glo Richard Branson portrait at the end of the room overlooking the rest of the installation.  Also on the left hand side is a black and white pyramid sculpture which is interesting on its own but when thought about in context of the rest of the room is even more so.  In the centre of the room, again in day-glo colours, is what looks like a sculpture of a human corpse, wired up with day-glo wires.  In the four corners of the room, wired up to the Branson portrait’s eyes are four speakers with a metal like foil sculpture on each.  Also present in the dark room are two TV screens and music is playing to add to the eery, anxious atmosphere.

These are the words that I wrote in my notebook whilst experiencing the installation: eery, weird, dystopian, darkness, control, power, out of body experience, scary, anxious, frightening, torture, influence, death, disturbing, pain, hair raising.

This wasn’t actually the exhibit that I went to see, I went originally to the Walker to look at what still life paintings they had on display to do some research for my next assignment but this exhibition is the one caused the biggest reaction in me during my visit.  I was intrigued as the exhibit door was blackened out and the notice on it warned about the darkness.  The exhibit was labelled as looking at ‘space tourism’ and so that also attracted me as Physics is my other passion.  To be honest, the only part of the space tourism I got from the experience was the link to Branson but I don’t think that idea shone through that strongly.

One thing that the exhibit did remind me of is the Netflix TV series ‘Black Mirror’.  Black Mirror looks at the way we use technology and often has quite dystopian themes.  Whilst I was in the installation room and talking to one of the gallery staff afterwards, I very much got the dystopian message of Drew’s piece.  The overriding image I have is one of big businesses (represented by Branson) taking control of our lives through technology and how technology itself is becoming apart of us.  The four foil sculptures to me seemed like the four chambers of a beating heart that was wired up to Branson, when you stood close to them, they did seem to beat like a heartbeat.  The body in the middle was our sense of individuality being dead and we are just robots in the corporate technology machine, again controlled by rich individuals.  The pyramid structure was interesting as pyramids are a symbol of entering the after-life and ancient religious practices and it here seemed to suggest we have left one life and are entering another world where technology is even more powerful than it is now.