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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Hell’s Half Acre: A Review

Hell's Half Acre, The Old Vic Tunnels' collaboration with Lazarides Gallery delves into Dante's nine circles of hell. The exhibition runs until the 17th October.

Written by Sally Mumby-Croft

Back Camera
Blue Fever by Polly Morgan. Photograph by Tim Adey

On Monday night, treat Amelia’s Magazine delved into the depths of hell, site handily located beneath London’s Waterloo Station. For a limited time (show ends on the 17th October), Lazarides Gallery in collaboration with The Old Vic Tunnels have recreated Dante’s Inferno within the bowels of London’s Transport system.

Photograph by Sally Mumby-Croft

The journey begins with a preamble through a heavily graffitied (and location of Banksy’s last exhibition in London) tunnel behind Waterloo Station.

If like me, you are unfamiliar with the nine circles of Hell, let’s have a quick recap! Limbo, Lush, Gluttony (or the Worldwide Banking system), Avarice and Prodigality (Hoarders or Squanders of possessions), Wrath and Sullenness, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and finally the ninth circle is Treachery.

Artist: Zac Ove Photograph by Sally Mumby-Croft

Hell it appears, is a heavily stratified society (not that dissimilar from our own??), where the ring you inhabit is entirely dependent on various decision makers on the level of your sin… First up are those whose punishment for doing nothing with their lives -either for good or evil- is to remain outside the doors of Hell. Dante then progresses into Limbo, where the unbaptised and non-sinners, who rejected the word of God are doomed to stay in an decrepit form of heaven. The eight remaining circles bore into the centre of the Earth until Satan is revealed bound in chains.

Holy Smoke Quintet by Conor Harrington, Photograph by Ian Cox

After researching Danta’s Inferno on the internet, each sin’s punishment takes the form of poetic justice, for example “fortune-tellers have to walk forwards with their heads on backwards, unable to see what is ahead, because they tried, through forbidden means to look ahead to future in life” What poetic justice lies ahead for those who tried to predict the future through the economy? For Steve Lazarides Hell’s Half Acre is “a vision of our hellish society under coalition rule.”

Sun by Paul Insect, Photograph by Sally Mumby-Croft

As my companion and I wondered around the horrors produced in response to Dante’s Inferno (they had been provided with a copy of the book a year before the show) we came across an alcove in which a projection of fire reflected across unmoving water. What is it about fire that never bores us? As my friend noted with images of heaven (Clouds) people tune out fairly quickly, but show the audience a mirrored projection of fire and we’re mesmerised.

Leaping Flames by Doug Foster. Photograph by Sally Mumby-Croft

Corrupt, treacherous and flattering politicians better watch out… Dante has a place for you in the eigth circle of hell, specifically within the fifth stone ditch, where you shall be immersed forever within a lake of boiling pitch.

Artist: Paul Insect, Photograph by Sally Mumby-Croft

Mark Jenkins, Chrysalis 1-6, Photograph by Ian Cox

Mark Jenkin’s Chrysalis, consisted of identical hanging bodies dangling as if caught in a spiders web. The entombed bodies evoked thoughts of Huxley’s A Brave New World and the final outcome of our endless embracement of mass production finally turns on recreating ourselves forever more.

On exiting the exhibition, the audience passes through a fine misty rain, evoking perhaps Dante’s description of the punishment awaiting those more gluttonous members of society… their fate is to lie on the ground, underneath endless icy, poisoned rain, as the empty sensuality of their lives is imprinted forever upon their body.

At the end of the exhibition, the moment of respite arrives in the form of Tokujin Yoshioko’s immense crystal sculpture. Sponsored by Swarovski, this huge sculpture drowns the world in bright white light. An unexpected treat in this dankest of underworlds, for a brief moment Heaven penetrated the circles of hell.

Photograph by Tim Adey

Hell’s Half Acre is an intriguing use of The Old Vic Tunnel’s and I cant wait to see what exhibition comes next… Oh! Before I forget, there was of course, the most excellent bar – what sort of Hell would be without that?!

Hell’s Half Acre runs until the 17th for further information please visit here and here. If you feel like a break from Frieze this year, this might be the perfect alternative.

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