Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen meets residents of the 343 bus route at Peckham Space

By Mark Sheerin | 18 October 2012
Colour photo of a family outside their house, with dog
Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, 343 Perspectives (film still)© Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen. Image courtesy Peckham Space.
Exhibition Review: Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, 343 Perspectives, Peckham Space, London, until November 18 2012

While recent films have portrayed the struggles of migrants, Nikolaj Larsen’s new piece at Peckham Space is a study of a more settled, local, population. It features one old gentleman who says “I love Peckham. I love Camberwell. I’ll probably die ‘ere.”

Elsewhere we meet a rapper who recounts the architectural history of his estate. We meet a couple of developers who plan on opening a bijou café. We meet a young family who keep a union jack as a centrepiece to the dining table.

Indeed, there are plenty of flags throughout Larsen’s piece, reflecting the major sporting event which no doubt provided the backdrop. Sport does feature here. There is the intensity of a lone boy playing football against a wall and the lonely warm up of a javelin thrower with a prosthetic leg.

The second athlete, who once represented Nigeria in the Paralympics, goes by the name of Michael and harbours ambitions to compete for the UK in 2012. It is a nod to Larsen’s more common themes as well as a sign of the rootedness of his subjects this time round.

But as settled as his participants may be, their isolation is also palpable. With a few exceptions, Larsen’s subjects make solo appearances, just like the owner of a greasy spoon who puts out tables in the rain at 6.30am. One man appears with his “only real” friend; that friend is a dog.

While it is doubtful this part of Peckham is any more isolated than any other city neighbourhood, it is apparently ill served by transport links. Only the 343 bus links these subjects to the rest of the world, but they are still in London after all, not on the Orkney Isles.

The bus route forms an invisible scaffold for this montage of interview and scene setting footage. (A random loop gives it an epic dimension.) But you might say the vehicle that holds it all together is on the tenuous side.

What cannot be denied, however, is Larsen’s knack for coaxing natural performances from the many people he has met and filmed. Michael’s plaintive singing as he stretches out the muscles on his one good leg will haunt anyone who sees it.

A little more conceptual thinking before the camera rolled might not have gone amiss. But Larsen is without doubt a convivial filmmaker who clearly doesn't need an elaborate framework to make a warm and engaging piece of work.

  • Open 11am-5pm (4pm Saturday and Sunday, closed Monday). Admission free. Follow Peckham Space on Twitter @Peckham_Space.

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

More pictures:

Colour photo of a javelin thrower with a prosthetic leg
Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, 343 Perspectives (film still)© Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen
Colour photo of a tailoring shop
Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, 343 Perspectives (film still)© Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen. Image courtesy Peckham Space.
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