Review: The Age of Love by Heather Phillipson @ BALTIC

Liv Blackham reviews the exhibition by Heather Phillipson based on the environment, fear of the future, and Kittiwakes.

Liv Blackham
5th November 2018

When you walk into a large room full of darkness and the sound of cawing Kittiwakes, there is understandably an initial fear of what you are about to find. Heather Phillipson has created what has been described as ‘a dynamic mindscape of video, sculpture and sound’ where the only human presence is through agricultural equipment. I know exactly what you're thinking, I have to be exaggerating, right? You must be filled with curiosity as to what the rest of this exhibit was, what it all meant and what on earth was going through Phillipson's head. Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in.

Fast track through the darkness to a line of screens showing recordings of Kittiwake birds nesting in the BALTIC, bringing a personal touch to the Phillipson’s alternate reality. Upon reaching this, I keep going despite my mild terror of what was to come. I reach the end of the room and turn the corner. What I saw is almost too shocking to describe.

[pullquote]As I returned to light and the real world, I sat to think about what I had witnessed.[/pullquote]

The room was filled with lights pulsating to the 90s tune of ‘The Age of Love’, which was seeping out of a repurposed grain silo, echoing its man-made nature to the world. The flooring changed from normal paving to crunchy gravel. Strange, I know. Yet when you think about it, the change in flooring is reminiscent of the changed world I had walked into. A world where it’s entirely normal to have a giant cat with bright green eyes constantly watching you. The heavy emphasis on animals suggests the original nature of love (the purpose of procreation), which has since been romanticized. Phillipson continues to condemn humans within the rest of her exhibition, particularly in the anthem to grass and rotating fake foot.

Exiting was very much like entering, except this time I lost feeling in my ears and there was a creepy cat staring at me.  Some unnerving things, some disturbing things and some painful things. Yet, Phillipson demonstrates a world without humans in it, possibly a world before us. This speaks to our current environmental state, scaring us into working harder to change the world from what she presented it to be. In that way, I can support the crazy.

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