The Forever Loop
Barbican Curve (until January 10, 2016)
My first visit to The Forever Loop was on the opening night, and, true to any private view, it was packed out, so it was disconcerting when I returned to The Barbican’s Curve Gallery for a second look to find myself walking around the show alone. This felt like a rare chance to experience the show in its entirety – as if this bright, loud, playful, shouty burst of contemporary art was there just for me to absorb at my leisure.
The two dancers performing as part of the show are completely naked, apart from their immaculate, white Reebok trainers. They carry out an impressive, choreographed routine completely straight faced, fully immersed in their roles. On both visits to the show, my most prominent thought was about the guts these performers must exhibit to be so exposed. The bold moves in their routine remind me how much impact performance can have on the viewer. Meanwhile, a Clockwork Orange-esque roller skater elegantly glides around them, or, alternatively, lounges on strategically placed sofas, or clambers up the scaffolding that runs through the space.
It’s easy to look at nudity in contemporary art as a cheap trick to shock or grab attention, and, unfortunately, that’s too often the case – it is not just transgressive, but is frankly, a bit dull. So, in the same way that it is instantly impressive to see stark naked dancers, it also takes a moment or two to register whether their inclusion is a gimmick or the real deal. Eddie Peake’s work is definitely the latter; he clearly has a genuine fascination with sexuality and showmanship, and approaches these subjects in a refreshingly humorous and captivating way. In the past, his work has featured nudity and performance in various guises, from five-a-side naked football to a website that shows nothing but a male erection bathed in pink neon. Peake is interested in beauty, in balancing movement with sound and image, and making a visual connection with his viewer.
The Forever Loop, entwines Peake’s distinct style around the space, and while a self-confessed exhibitionist, as an artist, he appears to use the literal stripping down of a person as an investigation into identity – it’s a theme that recurs throughout his practice. Ultimately, the whole show feels like an erotic performance, merging art with reality and allowing Peake to demonstrate complete artistic freedom and expression, from beginning to end, through the eclectic mash-up of mediums, including video, sculpture, painting, text, sound, installation and, of course, the performance.
The Forever Loop outshines the last few shows I have seen at the Curve and has definitely raised the bar for the Barbican. I know a couple of people who’ve seen the show four times so far, and I’m sure I’ll be back for another hit. Don’t miss it; you might live to regret it.