Sonica: Tales of Magical Realism Part 2 @ Tramway
Sven Werner’s participatory installation is the follow-up to his highly successful Tales of Magical Realism Part 1. It is an immersive embodiment of Werner’s feature film Oculista, in which a traveller meets a mysterious girl at a train station. The piece encompasses many art forms - animation, performance, dance and sculpture.
Crafted in Werner’s trademark gothic style, it begins with a kind of antechamber, which is populated by a lone dancer and a three-piece band. We are guided through low-lit rooms and instructed to gaze through peepholes, advancing through various stages as the narrative unfolds. The mechanical animations and bleak soundtrack are moody and full of tension, brimming with dreamlike imagery and soundscapes.
Billed as a ‘vaudevillian sonic experience,’ the vaudeville is definitely there, but sadly the sonic aspect was drowned out by heavily dramatic narration. As with many multi-disciplinary pieces, the question inevitably surfaces as to whether it functions as artwork or something else entirely. In this case, the work doesn’t quite pull it off. Unfortunately, it seems to become a kind of novelty theatre, where amongst all the clever bells and whistles, the art is nowhere to be seen. Neither were the narrative nor the aesthetic particularly ‘immerse’ – it was more a case of watching from a detached position as it slowly progressed to its conclusion.
While the antique shop aesthetic and narrative construction will leave some a little cold, the performance with a dancer accompanied by Graeme Miller’s score is stunningly beautiful. It evokes feelings of obsession and manipulation while maintaining a chilling romanticism. Had I been given the choice, I would happily have stayed there, rather than be ushered on through the rest of the installation.