Editor‘s Pick: BAS8 Children of the Unquiet

The British Art Show, the only exhibition with its finger well and truly on the pulse of the contemporary British art scene, has been open in Leeds for a month now. It is the first time that the show has ever been opened outside of London or Edinburgh and so far it has enjoyed huge success in our glorious city. So, here at the Gryphon Arts we thought it was about time for us to give you our number one top pick from the 42 most renowned names of current British art exhibited at the BAS8 this year. Although every artist at the show is very worthy of being selected for the top spot, after careful deliberation we have chosen the audio-visual piece Children of the Unquiet by up-and-coming artist-director Mikhail Kirikis as our favourite.

The work is a tripartite film focusing on the children who, dressed in in hyper-saturated technicolour, have come to reclaim the deserted worker villages surrounding a geothermal power plant where they used to live. The first section of the film is a chorus, created by combining the sound of children mimicking the hissing, pounding and bubbling they used to hear each day. The second part overlays readings of philosophical texts regarding love and politics on scenes of the kids playing in the abandoned corridors and empty streets, which makes for very unnerving – yet also humorous – viewing. The work concludes in a very symbolic uprising of the children, which consists of them playing, shouting and laughing in the desolate spaces of the village. Throughout the piece the ideas of action and passion are evoked, but you will notice that the work is actually void of both of these things.

Mikhail Kirikis cannot be praised enough for his latest artistic endeavour. Every aspect to the film has been meticulously chosen and design to convey Kirikis’ point. From the location – Devil’s Valley, which is said to have inspired large parts of
Dante’s nightmarish Inferno – to the costumes, which where were made and dyed by the director himself in order to recall the aesthetic of the brochures that first advertised the homes in the villages. Personally though, my favourite device employed by the artist is his use of nonsensical sounds to “break free from the rigorous structures of language” and find a flexible space that allows the film to avoid political sloganism.

So what about the man behind the masterpiece? Mikhail Kirikisis a Greek/British artist started his career studying Architecture and then went on to do his MA and PhD in Fine Art at the Slade School of Art. He has produced a serious of audio-visual works which encompass sound art, performance and film and they mostly focus on communities whose lifestyles challenge what we consider ‘the mainstream’. He is a permanent senior lecturer at the University of Brighton and is currently collaborating with Juliana Engberg, who also contributed to Children of the Unquiet, on a new project.

Children of the Unquiet is a thought-provoking piece which is definitely worth seeing. Its aesthetic elements are seamless and the way in which sound is manipulated is fascinating. At the end of the film, when the bold colours of the children contrasted with the bleak derelict remains of the town, I couldn’t help but think – as I am sure Kirikis intended me to: what faded ruins will we leave for the generation after us?

Children of the Unquiet and the rest of the British Art Show 8 will be on display at Leeds Art Gallery until 10th January 2016.

Cameron Tallant

Image: Mikhail Kirikisis

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