Benedict Drew: The Trickle-Down Syndrome @ Whitechapel Gallery
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I have been thinking a lot ((just this week)) about the spectacle n theatricality in art. Like… idk if spectacle has its own like attached meaning but i am talking about;:: showbizzz, drama, flash & snazz and all that.
I say this all thinking thinking trying to think and make cogent my thoughts about Benedict Drew’s show @ Whitechapel. Tryna make sense of why i felt like it was so flex-y, such good showmanship. I took my sister to the gallery with me; she hates art, she can’t think in its specific language and doesn’t want to, doesn’t have time. I respect it bc it makes sense when she talks about why she doesn’t like it. It’s not ‘o, my 4 year old coulda made that’, it’s literally just that she cba;;; for her, other things fill the space that art takes up for me. So knowing this knowing her position, i took her round expecting her to hate it; grumble round the gallery as we went. But she kinda liked it u know. her reaction was visceral and pure and so untempered by anything;;; we talk about not being fresh and clean like babies when we walk into galleries, we arrive with context. I feel like my sister arrived with none. She actually was a clean slate. She didn’t know what she was meant to expect or any reference point for what she saw. Her reaction and her review of the show was that feeling when u pull off the wax strip to reveal a perfect, plastic smooth, hairless leg;;; shining slightly in the light.
sO. when u walk in; wall to floor, across the floor::: all white like a backdrop - full theatre. lines pulling in to one screen. This hits u as soon as you walk in the door; and u have to walk around it. Umara said it was weird and made her feel ill. i said it felt like a transition; a slideshow title page. She told me to shut up. As you walk around the corner though in the main body of the space there’s a massive stage with full set up. Characters playing their part; running their lines. It’s like a format that’s a cross between stage and altar. It reminded me of going to the mandir >>>> and they have a full set up on Diwali; they set the stage and it’s so ~`~`~ showbiz ~`~`~ idk why or what it does to me, i can’t quantify what it’s doing but i love it i love it i love it /// it feels like spectacle in like that specific sense of the word. Umara said it made her scared. There was a tension kinda bc the horror film music in the background and the tense characters on the screen - delivering lines but d’r’a’m’a’t’i’c’a’l so tense tension ahhh. it was all ambient but sinister and Umara said it felt bodily like going through a body as it’s laid out: “this one’s the eyes, the mouth and this one’s the butt”. I reminded her of that time we went to the millennium dome with our aunt and there was an exhibit abut the body. A massive body and you could walk through it: go up the stairs to the brain, the spine was a lift; full size working heart. Umara’s eyes went wide and she was like “ooOoOoOo yE!” a nice moment n it all slotted into her cultural vocabulary of things she recognised. I was happy i felt like she got it even if it wasn’t like ~~~ it~~` if it was a thing/not a thing whatever/// she felt it and i was so glad! There were a couple other rooms but we zoomed through them; i told her my thoughts and she kinda went ‘hmmmm ye’ but i could tell she was humouring me. tbh we were both kinda taken with the work in the main room and the way it man-spread across the space. It all felt rly rly cohesive and surrounding and there was that ~~tension~~~ that body-body-ody horror and the feeling of drama.
On Thursday my Mum gave me a surprise present for my birthday and took me and my sister to see Aladdin,,, the proper Disney musical in the theatre. We were up in the rafters looking all the way down and we got this weird very precise perspective of everything. What rly grabbed me about it was the sheer fucking spectacle. They really threw everything at u. There were fireworks; bedazzled costumes; confetti cannons; more fireworks; the genie arose from the ground in a puff of smoke. It all felt so fast-paced, slamming in the bangers one after the other. It worked a wonder on my twitter-n-snapchat attention span. I was fucking enthralled; every time i felt myself relaxing into the chair, something else flew out of the bag. I spent the entire time on the e-d-g-e of my seat. Idk if it’s just bc i was thinking about them together bc i want them to be together or if they actually do sit kinda similar for me;;;; but the show reminded me/// made me feel the same flavour as that West End stage-school drama. Maybe not the same pace, bc the Benedict Drew felt more at ease, relaxed into it all. But that same flair;;;; putting on a show for the ppl watching;;;;; surrounding u with a feeling that’s kinda everywhere in the room;;;;; grabbing u by the eyeballs and holding u for narrative. it was good; but mostly i was just pleased my sister liked it bc she doesn’t like anything. Benny Drew, if ur reading this,,, that’s a fucking achievement.
Benedict Drew, The Trickle-Down Syndrome is on till 10th September @ Whitechapel Gallery and it is FREE <3