Tramway, Glasgow until October 6th. The Gatekeepers will be performed on October 6th, 2-3pm.
It’s not hard to see the wood for the trees in Jonathan Baldock’s environmental fantasia, a collection of totem pole-like ceramic pillars, buckets and badges that take its name from George Orwell’s very English dystopian novel, 1984. Despite this, its adventure playground stylings more resemble the set for some post-apocalyptic 1970s East European animation, in which the natural world is magicked into quasi-human life, painted in rainbow colours and given voice to laugh or cry at their lot.
Disembodied limbs reach out through each structure, pointing the finger en masse or with hands outstretched either side of lips that pout, smile or pull tongues, pushing their way through the outer flesh of the cartoon tree they might have been trapped inside by some fantastical trickster from a magic kingdom centuries earlier. External trappings are embedded with smiley emojis that look like pills, their trippy imaginings personified by occasional sounds of whistling, cackling and assorted murmurs and burbles punctuating the air.
However playful, this is the stuff of dark fairytales that recalls the stop-motion animations of Jan Svankmajer in its reimagining of inanimate objects. Baldock’s thickly carpeted landscape looks too like some knockabout alliance between H.R. Giger and H.R. Pufnstuf, with the fusion of the Swiss sci-fi artist’s more clinical surrealistic tendencies warmed up by the creature comforts of Sid and Marty Krofft’s late 1960s life-size puppet based children’s TV show.
If ever there was an installation waiting to have flesh and blood life breathed into it, Facecrime is it. And so it shall come to pass on the show’s final afternoon, when a performance of The Gatekeepers, a dance-based response to the exhibition developed by Baldock with fellow travellers, artist Florence Peake and composer Chloe Herington, will take place. Happy ever afters all round, one hopes.
The List, September 2019.