Barbican Art Gallery defies gravity with disorientating offsite project Dalston House

By Mark Sheerin | 25 July 2013

Exhibition preview: Leandro Erlich: Dalston House, London, until August 4 2013

Colour photo of a giant optical illusion involving the facade of a terrace house
Leandro Erlich, Dalston House. Installation view© Gar Powell-Evans 2013, Courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery
Given the stories of native writers Julio Cortazar and Jorge Luis Borges, you might surmise that Argentinians have an inherent love of illusion, metaphysical tricks, and doubling. The latest piece by artist Leandro Erlich does nothing to dispel this image.

In an offsite project for Barbican, he has taken inspiration from the architecture of East London and recreated a house such as might have been found on Ashwin Street, Dalston, before the area was razed to the ground by bombing during World War II.

Expectation should have been high for the piece. As a commission by the gallery’s Curve programme, it follows huge success projects such as Rain Room by rAndom International and Beat the Champ by Cory Arcangel. But the Argentine had a trick up his sleeve, pre-trialled in Paris and Japan.

Dalston House is no liveable abode, but rather the façade of one which fills the surface of a vacant lot. And looming over this at 45 degrees is an equally large, panelled mirror. As a result visitors to this ambitious intervention can watch themselves as they seem to defy gravity.

The artist has expressed a wish to see playful engagement with this piece. And indeed, once vertigo has been overcome, the public have been getting into apt spirit, swinging from windowsills and scaling brickwork.

Metaphysics, it seems, can be great fun, wherever you're from.

  • Dalston House, 1-7 Ashwin Street, Dalston. Open 11am-6pm (8pm Thursday and Friday, 10am-8pm Saturday and Sunday, 7pm August 1). Admission free. Follow the house on Twitter @dalstonhouse.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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