Christine Rebet’s background in theatre design is mentioned offhand in the description of her exhibition at Parasol unit, but staging and theatricality are the at the heart of ‘Time Levitation’.
Wry, hand-drawn animations are presented with disconcerting sound design, within custom-built spaces, to produce outcomes that are textured and surprising. It’s a kind of total theatre masquerading as installation art.
Take The Black Cabinet for instance, pictured above. The plush setting – rug on the floor, chandelier hung from the ceiling – situates the viewer in the same world as the aristocratic séance Rebet depicts in her animation. You feel like you’re complicit when the group of aristos conjure the spirit of a military dictator who throws grenades into a roulette wheel and blows the whole thing up. Just as the séance awkwardly collides with the ghosts they summon, so too does the viewer. We find ourself drawn into a hand-drawn, 2D world that we’d rather not be a part of.
Although drawing, in some form or other, is the most prevalent medium of the exhibition, I was most struck by The Square in which Rebet’s hand-drawn images are noticeably absent. Inspired by Samuel Beckett’s televised ballet, Quad, The Square presents four lines which impassively criss-cross a dusty square. The work is more solemn than other pieces in the exhibition; the witty and colourful character of Rebet’s drawing replaced with monochromatic minimalism. If I hadn’t read the gallery notes I wouldn’t have connected The Square with the 2011 Arab Spring (a source of inspiration for the work, produced in the same year), but I suspect I would have still left the room with the same sense of unease. The connection to Beckett is more obvious and demonstrates the extent to which theatre and staging underwrite Rebet’s thinking about space in her work.
Christine Rebet’s ‘Time Levitation’ is a masterclass in slick curation, showing a thoughtfulness for the context in which the animations and works on paper are seen, without turning the exhibition into some kind of Secret Cinema rip-off. As someone who is often irrationally resistant to film installations in art galleries, I really enjoyed the way the exhibition drew me in and then spat me back out.