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A Magazine for Sheffield

Playing with space: Soundscapes and strange spaces with Platform 22

This year’s Platform exhibitions, a "joined-up approach to visual arts", put an intriguing spin on local spaces with explorations in sound and the senses.

A darkened room with a metallic structure and pink lighting

Platform 22

Jules Lister

The gallery space at Bloc Projects is pitch-dark. It’s a shock after the bright February sun outside and my eyes strain to make out the source of a dim glint ahead of me. I reach out and touch it and, instantly, the room is all colour and sound, bouncing in echoing flashes off a strange web-like structure in front of me.

This is Rian Treanor’s ‘Cumulative Entanglement’, a thrilling and interactive experience created in collaboration with Rotherham Sight & Sound. The scaffolding sculpture in the centre of the room is hooked to a sound and lighting system that reacts to touch.

The piece is one of the Platform 22 exhibitions currently showing at three different venues in the city. Central Sheffield’s golden trio – Site Gallery, Yorkshire Artspace (YA) and Bloc Projects – are showcasing the work of this year’s five Sheffield-based Platform artists, a creatives development program funded by the Freelands Foundation.

The exhibitions are within walking distance of each other, though they do have different opening times (as I learnt the hard way). Each venue offers a completely different experience.

In contrast to the exhilarating darkness in Bloc, YA’s sun-flooded gallery showcases Theresa Bruno’s colourful Argos catalogue inspired ‘Gargantua’. Meanwhile, three unique voices meet at Site’s ‘Dark Echoes’, dissecting experiences of blackness, othering and postcolonial legacies.

Yet there are also similarities across the five artists’ works: all of them play with space.

For instance, the YA’s exhibition transposes the two-dimensional experience of a shopping catalogue into a three-dimensional space, with Bruno’s playfully arranged laminates meandering coral-like around the floor, punctuated by speakers and stools. It’s a stark contrast to the otherwise minimalist gallery space.

Only a stone’s throw away from the Moor, the piece also evokes thoughts about commercialism and overconsumption.

“I worked very intuitively when installing the pieces on the floor in Yorkshire Art Space,” Bruno explains. “Dwelling in physical and digital spaces and finding narratives and connections in between things. I had some feedback a few days into the install that the floor collage looked geographical, like cities and rivers, and that read well for me because I want the piece to point towards the planet.”

Location, space and artwork contextualise and complement each other across Platform 22’s program. Speaking to Now Then, Robyn Haddon, Site’s producer, explained that careful thought was put behind where and how the pieces are displayed.

“We work with the artists for about a year before the show”, she said, “so it’s a process of getting to know what they each want to achieve with the exhibition and which environment would suit their work the best”.

Three television sets on a shelf

Platform 22

Jules Lister

Yet the way artists adapt those environments is also impressive. At Site, Kedisha Coakley presents a series of bronze sculptures of discarded pieces of fruit – passion fruit, cotton, mango seeds, pocketed by colonial botanists and drawn up as ‘discoveries’ to European audiences.

Her ‘Horticultural Appropriation: Settlement’ is displayed on blue velvet squares suspended from the ceiling at intervals in the first half of the gallery space, underscoring their sense of being ripped from their original context.

Meanwhile, Adebola Oyekanmi’s piece ‘Black Icarus’ is framed by a walk-in living room in the far right corner of the room, with an entrance marked by an upside down astronaut’s mask. His film, driven by pattern, colour and spoken word, merges psychedelic experience with space travel. It’s a hypnotic piece – however, a big commitment for a casual gallery-goer, coming in at 65 minutes.

Dark Echoes is the only multi-artist venue and unfortunately, this is also its shortcoming. Relegated to different corners of the room, with some confusing overlap between Coakley and Tyler Mellins, the artworks jostle for space rather than conversing. Sound-clashes across the exhibitions’ audio elements add to this sense.

Nonetheless, Platform 22 has put together a colourful show. Spaces are reinvented and converse across the central cityscape. Rachel Dodd, YA’s programme director, puts it well when she told me Platform 22 “really reflects the joined-up approach to visual arts that we think makes Sheffield special.”

It’s well worth a visit. Just make sure you don’t go on a Tuesday.

Learn more

Opening Times:

  • Site Gallery: Tues-Sun, 11am - 5pm
  • YA: Wed-Sat, 11.30am - 5.30pm
  • Bloc: Wed-Sat, 12pm - 6pm

All galleries are wheelchair accessible and have nearby offsite parking.

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