Sarah Sze at The Waiting Room | Extraordinary artwork above a South London train station
People are going to spend a lot of time talking about the location of this exhibition rather than the exhibition itself – and that’s a shame, because the artwork here really deserves to have the platform all to itself.
Instead, it has to share a platform with a couple of hundred trains a day. Because you’ll find it in a 150 year old waiting room above Platform 3 of Peckham Rye station.
So, just to get that bit out of the way, yes, it is in rather an odd place. That grand Victorian waiting room was converted into a billiards room in the ’20s, then, when the world collectively agreed that billiards was not really that much fun actually, the room was abandoned in the ’60s, and has been derelict for the half dozen decades since. Well, now it’s been rediscovered, and the powers-that-be decided to put it to surprisingly good use and fill it with art, free for all to soak up.
The first creative talent to inhabit the space is US-based sculptor Sarah Sze. She’s famous in her homeland for creating vast & intricate environments, and the work she’s created here is called Metronome. To find it, just head to the station entrance, and make your way up the staircase on the left. There’ll be signs pointing to the billiards room. At the top, you’ll then find yourself in what, for a train station, is a ridiculously grand room, with high ceilings and beautiful wooden floors.
Bang in the centre of the room, Sze has placed a huge concave semi-sphere made of thin curved steel beams and torn up paper. Across it all, you’ll see flashing images & videos playing, courtesy of the 42 projectors lighting up the floor, walls and ceilings. It’s like staring inside some massive digital eye. And it’s really quite huge.
The videos are mostly taken from clips on Sze’s own iPhone, as well as clips she’s captured from the internet, meaning you get a mixture of volcanos erupting, animals scurrying around, and casual cooking in the sculptor’s own home. And, being keenly aware of its location, Sze has created a soundscape too, with a permanently ticking clock matched with recordings of heartbeats & trains to intermingle with the real trains & real heartbeats that make up the ambient noise.
Despite the slightly chaotic jumble of sounds and images that are sprayed out across the Neo-Gothic canvas, it nevertheless feels – dare we say it – relaxing. You can walk around the room freely, to take it all in from various angles, and there are even a few scattered chairs for you to perch on should you want to sit and watch. In total, the whole loop takes roughly 10 minutes.
Perfect, if you’re waiting for a train.
NOTE: Metronome is free for all to see at The Waiting Room in Peckham Rye train station, from May 19th – September 16th 2023. You can find out more about the piece right here.
The Waiting Room | Peckham Rye Station, SE15 4RX
If this seems like it’s on the right track… then you’ll probably want to check out our guide to London’s best exhibitions.