So I decided to enrich myself artistically when I chose to go and visit The Gallery at Tyneside Cinema for the first time and write this review. Squeezing the trip in an hour break between lectures, I found myself surprised when, after climbing to the third floor of the cinema and opening the heavy door of the exhibition room, expectation misaligned with reality. One: it was a solo exhibition. Two: it was fucking dark. But don’t worry, there’s no need to cue Regina Spektor’s ‘Hero’ from 500 Days of Summer.
The Gallery space had transformed into a sort of mini-cinema, and, after confirming that I was in fact the only person in the room following a frantic neck workout, I settled down and watched the exhibition. ‘Cinesexual’ it was called, by the artist Ursula Mayer, and it was a double projection of two films on opposite sides of a screen. Both films documented the same series of movements as actors, JD Samson and transgender Dutch model, Valentijn de Hingh, change positions with each other, but from two cameramen’s perspectives as they face and film each other.
It was very calming, a nice little place to be with one’s thoughts, and as I moved between the front and back of screen, not only did I think about my impending death by dissertation, but I also started to get a feel of what Mayer was trying to get at. It is about transcending boundaries: the viewer is in complete darkness like a cinema, but is not bound to a seat and is able to move around unlike the normal static experience of watching from a restricted viewpoint.
Conventional markers of femininity and masculinity are taken away by starring a tall transwoman and a shorter man both wearing nude colours. This, combined with the act of constantly switching positions, challenges the so-called confines of gender and our limits of vision. These concepts are played with as the performers move on- and off-screen, sending out that ‘there’s-more-to-what-meets-the-eye’ message. The name ‘Cinesexual’ perpetuates this theme, as it is a combination of ‘cinema’, derived from the word for ‘movement’ in Greek, and ‘sexual’, relating to the two distinct sexes. But then again, I might be reading into things too much, I am an English Literature student after all.
So, as bizarre as the whole experience was, I found it very interesting how something so simple could extend to all these complexities. Also, how once you were absorbed in it, you lost all sense of time – plus it was for free, which is always good. What’s more, there’s the Tyneside Bar Café conveniently underneath it. The ambience is great and what’s cooler than a bar/café that has a mural of the word ‘DIALOGUE’ that is made up of actual dialogues from movie café scenes?!