Patrick Killoran’s Observation Deck – Feeling On Edge

By Pippa Davis, Ikon Youth Programme member

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There was something sinister about Patrick Killoran’s installation, Observation Deck (Birmingham). The white room I walked into contained what looked like a wooden stretcher in an asylum, with straps attached to pin down a writhing patient. Besides, the room is part of Ikon’s Tower Room, which stands as if it has been airlifted to Birmingham from Hogwarts.

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Reassured of my safety, I strapped myself in. There was no escaping. Having hauled myself out of the window, at first the idea of only the plank preventing me from plummeting onto the happy brunchers at the café below was daunting. I looked around, only being able to rotate my head so much due to the safety straps, and felt dizzy because of the strange angles of my vision (which explains the perspective of the photos, they depict what I can see, I am not bad at photography!). I felt very uncomfortable, hung in this awkward half-in half-out state, later discovering there was more than one reason why.

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I realised all eyes were on me. I was completing the artwork by participation and for the other visitors waiting on the bench, I was the art. This self-consciousness was heightened by the vulnerability of my lying down position, something associated with the privacy of our beds. Being in public, I was therefore isolated by the peculiarity of the action. What would passers by think was happening? How should I react when I return to the room? It was interesting observing others entering the installation as many rejected the opportunity. For some, it was due to a fear of heights, but for others it was the fear of others watching. It gave a clear message about society, that we are scared to try new things in the fear of judgement. I like this installation as it forces you to overcome this irrational preoccupation.

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The experience was very different when I was alone. I took my time, and observed the surroundings of Brindleyplace from the clouds floating above to office workers chattering below and the buzzing of construction work in the background. I enjoyed the isolation this time, feeling peaceful at a distance from busy city life. The beauty of this work lies in the different experience each time, in the weather varying your views and your temperament. As Killoran neatly put it, you are journeying out into the world to have an interior experience.

 Click here to find out about Ikon’s Youth Programme.

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