Arriving at the Igloo collective’s VISITOR exhibition makes you feel just a little bit special. Like some kind of foreign delegate, you’re immediately handed a clip-on visitor’s badge with a fold-out map. It’s not often you need a map to navigate the modestly sized Djanogly Art Gallery: something odd is definitely afoot.
You soon come face to face, not with an igloo, but with a life-size wooden cabin. This isn’t campus anymore, but the icy wilderness of Banff, Canada. Inside the rustic structure you would expect to find a crochety old hunter tending a wood-burning stove, so it’s a surprise to see half a wooden boat, and a screen showing images of a misty lake. This interactive installation piece uses video game technology to allow you to sit in the boat and row around the virtual landscape. This is where the map comes in, offering up tantalising lakeside place names like ‘Drowned Town’ and ‘Sharp Shinned Hawk’ to track down. It’s definitely fun, but it’s also foggy, spooky, and almost too quiet. A vague sense of threat hangs over the experience, especially when you stop to admire the scenery. Without the splashy sound of your oars hitting the water, the lake is virtually silent.
The unsettling atmosphere continues in the title of the next piece, ‘where the bears are sleeping’. Another screen shows monochromatic images of the forest in an eerie near-silence. This is a video piece, but with very little sense of movement aside from the odd shifting of snow or rustle of branches.
The impending sense of doom that permeates Bruno Martelli and Ruth Gibson’s installations never lets you forget that you are only a VISITOR, verging on becoming a trespasser, in this strangely spooky Canadian landscape.