Critics’ Picks

View of “Insomnia,” 2022. Photo: Rosie Taylor.

View of “Insomnia,” 2022. Photo: Rosie Taylor.


Leah Clements

South Kiosk
Unit DG.1, Bussey Building 133 Rye Lane
December 2, 2022–January 29, 2023

Imagine a deserted waiting room. A functional Selman Selmanagić chair upholstered in midnight blue rests forlornly in a corner, while translucent curtains cascade onto the velvety sapphire-colored carpet. Grainy photographs—shown for the first time—line the walls like portals to another dimension.

The veils are thin in “INSOMNIA.” Compiled as a psychogeographic atlas, Leah Clements’s exhibition of photographs commune with the spectral side of our domestic lives. The images record various forms of paranormal patterns, from what looks like horizontal water ripples on bathroom tiles (both Subsolar and An Eclipse Under the Skin [all works 2022]), to an otherworldly violet glow, like the kind given off by lamps at construction sites at night (Sleep Is a Place You Go to, but There Are Others In Between).

Accessibility is the hook, rather than a footnote, in Clements’s practice. Following her diagnosis with chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis), the artist has worked to expose the subterfuges and distortions of sleep disorders. The exhibition design simulates the indeterminate states of consciousness between wakefulness and slumber. Artificial light is tactfully deployed—including the use of two lightboxes and a work illuminated by an iPhone flashlight—to encourage the hypervigilance that, along with hallucinations and blurry vision, is a side effect of sleep deprivation. Think of Swedish philosopher Fredrik Svenaeus, a proponent of medical hermeneutics and phenomenology, who, in 2011, likened the ill body to a haunted house. He posited that “the life-world is usually our home territory, but in illness this homelike being-in gives in and takes on an un-homelike character, in which the otherness of the body addresses us in a threatening way.” Clements’s work replicates this quality to communicate the powerlessness and physical estrangement experienced by those living with chronic conditions.