Nick Hackworth

Till Exit: Strahlung.en, Matt’s Gallery

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Once upon a time in the Western world, steel and glass were materials that could be credibly imbued with hope. These ancient inventions of man were reinvigorated in the 19th and 20th centuries by progress in engineering and material science. Along with iron before them and concrete after them, they became the very foundations of the modernity and symbolic of humanity’s ability to rationally shape its own destiny.

However, in the work of German installation artist Till Exit (a pseudonym), as in our age generally, steel and glass evoke the inhumanity of steel-clad wars and the social and environmental damage of industrialisation. His installation in Matt’s Gallery leaves the large, dimly-lit space mostly empty. A glass and sliding-steel partition wall apes the aesthetics of factories from the Second World War period.

Beyond that lies what resembles a large table, made of sections that slide on rails, to which are attached TV monitors. Completing the installation is a film projected in a thin, vertical strip, featuring strips of lighting, close-ups of industrial forms and flashes of people moving awkwardly on TV screens.

There is neither a narrative nor clarity to the film and it is designed, along with the whole installation, to create a mood of disturbed distance and alienation, through sometimes vague association: Strahlung means radiation in German. Whether the work succeeds depends on your attitude to installations, which rely on often subtle/obtuse allusions or references and a good deal of indulgence on the viewer’s part. Within these constraints, Strahlung.en is effective because, despite being a little empty, it invests the steel and glass structures it is composed of with a sense of threat and failed hope.

Until 1 September. Information: 020 8983 1771.