It’s not who you are, it’s how you are Alice Theobald & Atomik Architecture at the Baltic


Now this was interesting. In the blurb about Alice Theobald & Atomik Architecture’s installation at the Baltic it states that the gallery has been designed to ‘create a series of familiar, yet unsettling spaces’. Hmmm – always interested in how architecture (or the architect) yearns to mould us and our lives. My thesis (many years ago now…) looked at the creation of new towns in 20th century Britain and how architects developed town plans to differentiate between private and public spaces and, particularly in the new towns, strove to create a ‘sense of community’. I’m often suspicious of manipulated spaces to create an atmosphere – I’m not sure it always works. But let’s see…

The gallery has been divided vertically and horizontally with raised platforms and soaring padded towers. A walkway leads you through a series of viewpoints and stages, though circular towers smelling comfortingly of the bed department in John Lewis with images projected on the walls. The projections are courtesy of the cameras on the stages with their live feed of the gallery, the lifts in the foyer and beyond, through the windows to the Quayside and the Tyne bridges.


Interestingly, the towers did, in my opinion, feel like a private space and I felt awkward entering them, though Mr Jenkins felt no such pang. Other people hurried apologetically through if you’d already taken up residence in one of the towers – in spite of there being space for six or so people in each one. Also unsettling were the walkways between the towers, all black with the raised platform and performers making you feel like you were watching a one-man/woman stage show for you alone. It seemed voyeuristic, watching them moving around the stage, sitting, sleeping, singing, altering the camera position – and hoping not to make eye-contact…


In contrast was the unhindered naturalness of the other gallery visitors in the foyer who hadn’t yet clicked that the cameras were pointing right at them. It was fascinating to spot the moment that they realised they were part of the show and how their behaviour changed. Some turning immediately from the camera, others smiling and putting on their best photo face.

Putting aside the theme of ‘It’s not who you are, it’s how you are’, and getting back to the space – the creative manipulation of the dark spaces in the gallery and the light from the foyer suggests a series of windows with ever changing views as you journey from tower to tower. Rather disturbingly though, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if you are look in or looking out.

So, yes, it does work, but go and experience it for yourself – – on until 10th April 2016. Any exhibition that references Adolf Loos has to be checked out!