Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

A small room. White walls, wooden floor, empty except for a large black box. In we go, not sure what to expect - is FELT an installation? a dance performance? is ‘felt’ a material or an experience? And then the box begins to move... What initially looked solid, featureless, turns animated. Flattens inwards while stretching outward in a progression of geometric angularities that look like abstract sculptures and yet, each kinetic action has a hint of ‘being’ in it. It’s hard to rein back the imagination here. Childhood dreams - and fears - of objects coming alive nudge into the sci-fi territory of aliens who don’t resemble us but might be cleverer, or even hostile. It’s interesting how onlookers dodge out of its way - and no-one approaches, or reaches out to touch.

When the box eventually gives birth to an outpouring of black material, our innate tendency to find narratives/ create meaning goes into overdrive: wherever the long, winding trails of black go in the building we - and our imaginings - will follow. It is a wonderfully unpredictable journey that unstoppers a kind of inner-personal slide-show of associations. The undulating river of black felt shape-shifts before our eyes and what might have been landscape - or lava flow? - rears up, like a looming shadow of blind, instinctive questing. At no point do we see even a glimmer of Elizabeth Schilling, the creative driving force inside the voluminous black. Nor can she see us, or her surroundings, as - underpinned by the pulsings and thrummings of Andreas Papapetrou’s music - her limbs enter into an essentially improvised duet with the copious folds of heavy felt. Schilling - who previously performed with Scottish Dance Theatre - brings physical strength and liquid pliancy to her choreographic adventure, alongside a bravura willingness to surrender her energies to this other ‘skin’. Playful, spectral, stirringly beautiful, Schilling’s FELT is full of intriguing possibilities - a magical invitation to look, engage and let your imagination dance into free-fall.