Anna Perach's Holes at Gasworks
- Friday dispatch
- Read Time: 3 minutes
Gasworks, 155 Vauxhall St, London SE11 5RH
31 January - 28 April 2024
The story of 'Holes' by Anna Perach is staged in the darkness of the night. Through a mesmerising interplay of textile, sculpture and sound art, viewers are not merely spectators but active participants within a pagan ceremony. This story is woven through a series of threads that transform from inanimate costumes to living bodies—from thread to flesh— acknowledging the essential unity between the spiritual and the physical.
Staged as a site of transformation and rebirth, 'Holes' tells the story of a witches' ritual where women's bodies are reborn. In Wiccan belief, Sabbats and Esbats are celebrations to align Earth's natural rhythms and seasons, which correspond to the solar and lunar cycles. I attended the preview event and intuitively felt that I had become a passive accomplice to a secret ritual. This secret that the story tells is feminist, embodied and erotic; furthermore, it acknowledges the belief systems that have been historically prohibited, hunted by patriarchal authorities and the prevailing morals of the great religions.
However, whilst this story weaves together pagan beliefs, feminist discourse and Wiccan practices, it also references art historical figures such as Tamara de Lempicka, Hans Baldung, Albrecht Durer, Aztec genealogy such as the Coyolxāuhqui or lunar goddess whose body was broken into pieces; as well as Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The first element of this story is Gateway, which the viewer must pass through to participate in the experience. This portal, communicating with a separate realm, is made through a series of textiles depicting fantastical figures, including deformed faces and amputated body parts resembling otherworldly beings. The use of bright colours gives a somewhat playful or childlike appearance and emphasises the theatricality of Perach’s oeuvre.
The doors open, the story begins, and the circle is cast.
The viewer crosses Gateway, entering a liminal space, a world between reality and fiction, or magic and politics. I felt as if I was entering into a tacit agreement of secrecy and complicity with the characters I encountered.
Placed at the very centre of the first room, lying on a surgical table, is the figure of Venus who is central to the story. This piece references the Anatomical Venus of the 19th Century, presented as a mannequin composed of interwoven fibres alluding to the in-between states that delimit the interior and exterior body. As part of the magical ritual, fabric transformed into flesh, and the costumes infused with vitality and life, used by the performer.
On the opening night, the exhibition space was activated with bodies of performers and spectators, all in motion, performing as a collective. The sensory experience included sound, movement, images, colours and more. This produced a sensation akin to that of knitting or the rhythm of stitching and weaving that is fundamental to textile as a craft.
The ritual culminated with Ecstasies, a sound piece by Laima Leyton, which consisted of techno music to which the performers danced. The music entered in synchrony with the dancing bodies of the performers, who embodied the rhythms of the weaving process itself. Bodies trembled, as if they were possessed or in a state of trance. In this ecstatic scenario, ancient wiccan practices merged with contemporary rave culture to align with the moon's transformative energies.
As the ritual ended, the audience left the sacred space with a sense of transformation. The result was the birthing of new creatures, the renewal of energies and the subversion of bodies and their embodied beliefs and ideologies.
Dr Paula Zambrano
Curator of Programmes
155 Vauxhall St, London SE11 5RH
Opening times: 12 - 6pm Wednesday - Sunday
Exhibition open until 28 April 2024