REVIEW: Yellow Wallpaper. Women and Mental Health: An Evening of Art, Performance, Music and Writing @ Star and Shadow Cinema

Newcastle upon Tyne
11 November 2014
More about the Star and Shadow Cinema

Yellow Wallpaper was definitely not what I expected. To be quite fair, I always seem to have expectations of exhibitions before I go and see them and whether they are very high or very low differs. With Yellow Wallpaper, I don’t know what kind of expectations I had exactly but all I can say is that it was different from everything that I thought I would see.

Perhaps my positive experience of the evening was fueled by the fact that I arrived an hour early before the announced hour and I got a unique behind-the-scenes look of the set-up  of the entire exhibition. At 6 o’clock everyone was still milling around madly, putting lights or installations up, rearranging tables, or generally walking around in a generally panicked manner. At about quarter to 7 the lights went out and everything magically fell into place. I was immediately transported into another world, a decentered, warped world out of the darkest corners of many minds. Somehow, this all transcends and merges into one big, dark space, which forced all visitors into a frenzy of thoughts and feelings.

“It is a beginning with no ending,” the brochure of Yellow Wallpaper states and it’s as true as it can be. From the first step, visitors are attacked with audio-visual triggers from everywhere. Milling with people, yet oddly solitary at the same time, The Star and Shadow Cinema provokes quiet conversation in gloomy corners and offers a very old-school setting, distanced from real life.

The evening was a feast for all the senses. Visitors could engage fully with the creative space, which was adapted perfectly to the artists’ needs. From the very entrance, the beating, looping sounds transport us to another universe. There is no way to speak of only one piece of art in the exhibition, as they worked together in a way they wouldn’t have on their own. Stephen Hithersay’s photography was powerful and acted as a sensory frame around the building, which had no particular focal point and led the visitor’s eye logically and methodically. Going through hanging scrolls from the ceiling felt more like walking through the door into another world, a world immersed deep in the sensitive issues of mental illness. Sara and Carol Rejaie’s sea glass installation glowed wonderfully in the dimmed light. Petra Szemán’s choose-your-own-adventure scroll art takes you on an eye-opening two-minute adventure. Cathy Garner transports us to the deepest corners of the brain – quite literally. And more, and more, and more. All this, completed with the words of many talented writers of the region and beyond, creates a silent space, which instills a serene paranoia in the viewer.

Last but not least, the performances and screenings of the evening are also spectacular. Among with the two short, yet powerful films, Jayne Dent delivered a breathtaking vocal performance. Caoifhionn Rose and friends delivered lyrical, soul-touching music, which only added to the atmosphere.

I left Yellow Wallpaper feeling uneasy. I felt like someone had poked deep into the furthest corners of my mind and torn out every mental insecurity that I had. In a way, I believe that was sort of the point of it and it truly did it wonderfully.

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