It’s an almost unsettling feeling to leave behind the world we’re used to and enter an entirely different universe, where we feel both very connected yet very far away. It’s a feeling that leaves a lasting impression, something that sits with us long after we’ve left the space. We’re talking about Keil Space on viale Michelangiolo 5, a 500-square meter environment created as a “suspended and surreal scenography” by British artist Sam Keil.
Pushing open the gate and descending towards the all-black, almost futuristic door, you already feel drawn towards what’s awaiting behind, or perhaps momentarily repelled, left looking backwards at the light. Curiosity conquers, and you enter alone, visits are exclusively individual. You are accompanied through the chambers by an expert who leaves you the freedom to interact with the works as you wish, giving space for you to respond on a deep level to the experience of walking amongst the bronze-based works. Best left a mystery, so viewers can enjoy the surprise that’s felt in discovering the space for themselves. What we can report is that The Florentine journalists who entered each left with lots to say, expressing the various moods inhabiting the chambers in different yet similar ways. A colleague referred to it as “almost like an art blind date”, where there’s a heightened sense of anticipation even from the mysterious and enticing entryway.
The avant-garde experience is quite a distance from the Renaissance heritage just outside it, offering new possibilities for engaging emotional responses to art. The London-born, Florence-based artist combines sight, scent and sound to push the boundaries of art into something else: advanced art. The origins of the concept are found in the first artistic crafts in the Fertile Crescent, passing through Sumerian art, hieroglyphics and the monumental statues of Ancient Egypt, evolving in Greek and Roman times, then in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, up to modern art movements, with its application being reactivated here just south of Piazzale Michelangelo.
A calm is collected in the welcome room, where you are encouraged to leave behind your phone and enter into the multisensory experience without external influence, pausing to take in the scent that enriches the environment. The elegant notes evoke a powerful feeling that reaches instinct and emotions, providing a potent accompaniment to the visions that follow. Textures take on a new significance as the pervading darkness is matched by your own attire, with a dark dress code appreciated to fit with the muted setting, tuning your eyes and ears into minute details. Even taste is attended to with a small offering upon arrival, adding to the curated, holistic treatment that places visitors as protagonists.
We are introduced to the First Generation Bronze, a collection of sculptures made by the artist over 40 years ago. Anatomy and the ever-evolving position of a body in space are the subjects of study here, with natural momentum captured in a thought-provoking manner. We are then led to Second Generation Bronze, an investigation into dimensional, energetic and perceptual fields that leave the visitor dazzled by plays of light and unexpected forms. The most striking aspect of the journey is still to come when we are guided to New Generation Works, a space experienced alone devoid of outside stimulus where surprising colours, sounds and feelings have the ability to transform participants’ psycho-physical states.
Lines between the observer and the observed are continuously blurred, culminating in the final room in which visitors reflect on the experience, responding to questions on their personal journey and expressing their own emotional response in a rare opportunity to dive deeper into our own engagement with art.
Keil Space can be freely visited and accessed by booking an appointment at www.keilspace.com.