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Es Devlin's 'Surfacing'

Es Devlin's 'Surfacing' unveiled at Art Basel 2024 and commissioned by BMW, left me—along with countless other viewers—virtually speechless.  This mesmerising configuration of water, voice, light and dance, is pure genius.

We sit in enveloping darkness, the mystery unfolding as water pours down on to the stage. A soundtrack of etherial music and hypnotic tones plays, our senses attune and our egos dissolve as we prepare for the ‘ground from beneath us to shift’.1

Es Devlin's 'Surfacing'

Devlin's childhood memory, recounted with vulnerability, then echoes through the space. Falling into London’s river Thames—the cold embrace of water, the play of light and colour filtering through glass liquid engulf the artist’s consciousness. As beholders, we begin to feel the sensations that lay in wait beneath the narrative of this unworldly piece. And then, the performance begins.

Balletic figures emerge, their motions fluid yet precise. The slow and controlled choreography fits neatly into the small dimensions of the stage. Their caged realm is intense. And without warning, the dance morphs into faster contortions of a contemporary nature then in a whisper flicker back to the refined forms of previous motifs.  Dancing through layers of water and light, the protagonists' sculptured bodies are elastic and strong. In this performance every movement exudes power, beauty and grace, visions that will linger in my subconscious for a long time to come.

Sharing with you a short extract....

Extract from "Surfacing" by Es Devlin, 2024

I've summarised above just one of four captivating works by Devlin that were featured in the booth at Art Basel in Basel 2024. The full works on display are as follows:

  1. Surfacing (2024): An illuminated cube of rain pierced by a line of light.

  2. Surfacing II (2024): A pair of painted televisions where a dancing figure appears to displace pixels and pigment.

  3. Mask (2018): A projection-mapped model city merging hands and river.

  4. Mask in Motion (2018): A revolving illuminated translucent printed city, casting viewers within its kinetic shadow.

© Copyright Hazel Clarke 2024

References: Accessed 16 June 2024.


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19 jun
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