Critics’ Picks

View of “Wendelien van Oldenborgh: From Left to Night,” 2015.

View of “Wendelien van Oldenborgh: From Left to Night,” 2015.


Wendelien van Oldenborgh

The Showroom
63 Penfold Street
April 29–June 20, 2015

The central work in this exhibition, Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s film Left to Night, 2015, unfolds over two days and three locations around West End London’s Edgware Road. The work brings together five characters who reflect on political violence and the forgotten histories of the area, which span the 2011 London riots, police harassment, and the punk lineages of a previous era. Throughout the film, Edgware Road is continuously historicized through through violence and the quotidian. Two characters of the film, Mehrak Golestan and Dean Burke, are filmed intermittently, weaving together the community’s history through hip-hop.

An important location in the film is the underground thoroughfare Joe Strummer Way, which links the Edgware Road Underground to Paddington Green Police Station. On the walls of the underground corridor, the words “riot,” “revolt,” and “disruption” are displayed on a tiled facade. These terms also pulse in and out of the character's conversations, as if resistance were a type of blood beating through the social.

Oldenborgh figures the Paddington Green Police Station at a distance. Her camera pans over its brutalist exterior while she intercuts shots from the Edgware Road corridor. Conversations address political violence and trauma directly—through topics such as incarceration and daily harassment—positing that in order to speak thoughtfully of the police and revolt, one needs to go underground. The underground is figured here as a mode of being together at distance from the police: a place to think, to study, and to talk among strangers. Think back to the political documentary Underground, 1976, where five members of the Weather Underground were assembled by the filmmakers Haskell Wexler, Emile de Antonio, and Mary Lampson in a safe house to speak openly of rebellion in America. Above the surface, the police exemplify a harsh system of surveillance, control, and fear. Below the surface, the underground stands for a life outside of the law.