Monster, the long awaited animatronic exhibition from Giles Walker has opened in Spitalfields. A full on immersive experience. It’s a show which combines some of Walker’s dystopian robotics with a soundtrack that swamps the senses. Built within a covered former stable courtyard opposite the Spitalfields Market, it’s been years in the planning.
A member of the Mutoid Waste Collective. Walker has been creating sculptures out of scrap metal since the 80’s. Over the years his unique talent has evolved to incorporate robotics and electrics. The sound and the lighting then combine with his creations to create a kind of dystopian play. The result is a dark but powerful immersion into a kind of shadow world.
For an in depth interview with Giles Walker during the making of Monster click here.
Originally planned for a warehouse in Deptford that was the first of a number of venues to fall through. The space needed to create something like Monster doesn’t come easily. The pandemic of course didn’t help either. Working with the gallerist and artist Ben Oakley they eventually found a prime spot in Spitalfields. Committing to open just after the second UK lockdown it was another gamble in a project littered with them. It paid off.
The actual Monster of this epic Giles Walker experience is hard to determine. There are so many of them. Taken together the installation paints a picture of a broken world. Thrown amongst the robotic sculptures are books. Reminders of all the knowledge we’ve discarded along the way. Three giant blind mice with shards of glass for whiskers stride forward carrying the world behind them. Wandering aimlessly and destructively they are symbols of the bureaucracy of state which control our lives.
Throughout the show there is much to take in. Impossible on only one visit. It is an exhibition which assaults the senses. First the eye is drawn to the robots themselves. Initially standing still they are just waiting for their electronic queue to move. All created using found materials, Giles Walker confides that he gets much from a dump spot near his studio. The only pieces he buys new are the electronic parts, there’s just too much that can go wrong there he tells me.
The robots take on a number of different forms. The giant blind mice are the most dominant but they also include demonic nuns, teachers, nurses and even a smoking baby. They all have meaning, symbolizing something, but the working out is in the immersion of the experience. Each performance lasts around 25 minutes and you soon find yourself captivated by it. Sounds, speech and music direct you where to go next. Each person likely to follow their own path through story dependent of the bias of their own senses.
Who is the Monster?
A lot is happening all at once. Voices from the past suddenly come into tune. Speeches from politicians, clips from films and soundbites from old racist comedians compete for space. Each avenue leads you round the show whilst a Jesus type robot hanging on a cross looks menacingly down. At one point a childlike robot emerges from the centre. Singing a haunting melody, it ends up being utterly captivating. The figure gaining a kind of humanity as it sings, arms outstretched and eyes looking to the sky.
Monster is an exhibition where no answers are really given but where lots of questions are posed. Who is the monster? After a while the obvious ones fade away. It’s not the blind mice or the horror Tuns. they just look creepy from the outside but they are visible and obvious. Really it’s in the things going on in the corridors of power. It’s the forgetting or disregarding of knowledge and facts. For some it would be in the banal acceptance of authority and in the adulation given to poisonous populist figures. The Monster, it would seem, is all around.
Monster is an exhibition by Giles Walker. It was been curated and produced with the support of the Ben Oakley Gallery. It is located at 106 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LZ. Tickets are restricted due to social distancing measures and must be booked in advance. You can book via eventbrite here.
Monster Exhibition Gallery
Interview with Giles Walker
Peep Show was an installation featuring pole dancing robots. Read more about that here