It’s telling, we think, when amid the blaring video installations, the immersive in-headphone audio commentary and the computer graphics show-offery, it’s a set of simple polished globes that really steals the latest Bluecoat show. Amid the anxiety disorder, the dread and the fear these explorations of place throw up, these exoplanets look like the only safe harbour in an otherwise unsettling exploration.

10 artists – Anne Eggebert, Matze Einhoff, David Ferrando Giraut, Polly Gould, Marja Helander, Uta Kogelsberger, Abigail Reynolds, Almut Rink, Emily Speed and Louise K Wilson – were invited to respond to this latest intriguing-of-premise exhibition through drawing, video, painting, photography sculpture, sound and installation.

Edgelands fascinate and repel us. They’re the urban equivalent of our dirty laundry: our overlooked and unloved landscapes where artists’ impressions and civic dreams fall prey to creeping entropy or faceless industrial units (ever driven round Deeside? It’s like Westworld without Brynner).

And so it is with Topophobia – an off-the-grid excursion into the city’s overlooked spaces, of schemes either in retreat or cocooned in CAD programmes. Add to this the wonderful Emily Speed, continuing her exploration of hidden and human-scale spaces, with Panoply: a playful yet sinister hiding place tottering precariously above the corridor, and you’re looking at an engaging spring exhibition in School Lane.

We have to be really engaged in video installations for us to find room in our hearts for them. They’re too needy, too reliant on over-used tropes and, well, too looong mostly. Moving Wallpaper. And there’s a bit of that on show here. Yeah, we know. We’re such philistines. Matze Einhoff’s projections of a lost city within a city (Berlin) are, however, diverting enough: offering tricksy cinematic crane shots, and blaring fanfares to present the very model of urban dullness.

Anne Eggebert’s pencil on paper drawings are gorgeous and hallucinatory, and Marja Helander’s images of brightly coloured Sami tribespeople shopping for tinned peaches offer a far more nuanced view of life above the Arctic Circle than any six part Attenborough documentary. But it’s Polly Gould’s gorgeous mirrored globes, reflecting and adding depth and dimension to a series of 2D landscape watercolours that most intrigued and delighted us. Set against the computerised walk throughs of shrubberies and busines parks, these blown-glass orbs become minor planets, ripe for terraforming (they’re actually paintings of Antarctica) orbiting a strange and unsettling world.

There is an accompanying book – Topophobia – which features additional essays and photos which is definitely worth investigating if you, like us, found plenty of reasons to navigate further into the themes Topophobia presents.


The Bluecoat
3 March – 22 April 2012
School Lane,
Liverpool L1 3BX