Shattering Illusions with Art in East London
"I like the simple idea of performing a magic trick on such a scale."
At a time when officials are doing their utmost to make London far too shiny and clean, attempting to give Olympic visitors the impression that we constantly live in a gleaming artifice of a city, it’s refreshing to see a bit of dilapidation now and then, and even more refreshing to see something highly innovative and aesthetically intriguing art created out of that dilapidation.
Artist and East London resident Alex Chinneck has been doing just that in his local area, subverting people’s impressions of an area in Hackney, where he has replaced broken windows in an old, derelict factory with hundreds of identically smashed windows, creating a compelling and counter-intuitive visual effect on a huge, highly visible scale.
To create the work, named Telling the Truth Through False Teeth, Chinneck had to gut the insides of the abandoned factory — formerly used to grow marijuana – before embarking on the painfully precise process of replicating a single smashed window 312 times, by using industrial processes, and then replacing each crafted window individually.
The result is a striking visual contradiction that jabs at blurring the lines between vandalism and art. When glancing at the factory in its grimy, industrial surroundings, nothing seems unusual at first — smashed windows in an derelict East End factory are hardly a rarity. It’s only on closer inspection that the giant pattern suddenly hits the viewer.
“There is something mesmerizing about the way light catches a broken window pane, not only is the glass shattered but so is the reflection,” says Chinneck of his installation.
It certainly is a hypnotic image — familiar yet foreign, a run-down building being used as high-end art. It’s also engagingly simple yet undeniably clever.
At the end of November, the factory will be demolished, taking with it Chinneck’s unique artwork — somehow a fitting conclusion to the guerrilla-art nature of the artist’s approach.
“This project always evolved with consideration to sculpture, architecture and engineering, but ultimately I like the simple idea of performing a magic trick on such a scale,” says Chinneck.
Telling the Truth Through False Teeth, by Alex Chinneck in association with Sumarria Lunn Gallery, is located on the corner of Mare Street and Tudor Road, Hackney, London, E9 7SN, and will be viewable until November.