Days of plenty / Glasshouse Stories

It’s a glorious day outside but even before you step into the near-pitch blackness, it’s already an intimidating experience. By the time you even walk into the exhibition space at the Chisenhale you’ve had your eye colour checked and according to the results been instructed where to start with the Faisal Abdu’Allah’s The Garden of Eden. Shrouded in black felt, it’s a colourful steel and glass construction, some kind of slightly sinister Willy Wonka greenhouse.

Eyes of blue or green? You get to walk inside this sparkling deep red hall of mirrors, and you get to read the secrets to life engraved only just visibly on the floor. You may be vaguely aware of shadowy figures on the other side of the glass, you may not. You’re not even sure whether an outside exists.

Eyes of any other colour? Through another gap in the felt, you see the same structure from the outside. You can see them inside, reading words invisible to you. You wonder what they could possibly say. You wonder whether the people on the inside can see you.

Put that way this pavilion / parable might seem corny and obvious, but the whole thing’s subtler than that because there are pleasures and comforts and discomforts in the inside and the outside. Like being watched by shadowy figures? Enjoy the chance to be a bit of a voyeur in a risk-free conscience-approved art environment? How do you feel about that?