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The Works

What’s in the shadows?

Adrián Villar Rojas at the Sydney Modern

In the shadows

On my final day in Australia, I visited the new wing of the Art Gallery of NSW, the Sydney Modern (it’s actually not yet got a name, negotiations continue, but this is its handle for now.)

My favourite part (of many) was “the tank”, a converted oil storage depot from World War Two. The Argentinian sculptor Adrián Villar Rojas’ deeply wonderful exhibit “The End of Imagination” was a little bit “I see a light” from Finding Nemo and a little bit Basilica Cisterns from Istanbul.

I stood in the corner for ages and watched huge lamps swivel around, blinding me occasionally but also hinting at massive, dystopian forms, huge sculptures by Rojas.

It was impossible not to follow the light. I wanted to see more of the sculptures. Call me a moth, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

Until … I did.

I turned my back to the light. I let my eyes adjust.

Things got less black and white, and evened out.

I started to notice the shape of the room. What was in the corners. How the columns were arranged to hold things up. The secret exits.

Turning away from the spotlight and looking in the shadows started to show me the system, the infrastructure, and more of what was going on.

The whole picture is both shadow and light.

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.