'Suspirium' by Heidi Ukkonen & Lysandre Begijn

The title Suspirium refers to a deep breath or sigh, in this case perhaps, a sigh of relief or existential boredom. Taken from the Thom Yorke song of the same name, the works maintain the same sombre mood of the track. “If you look at my masks or faces, they are all sad, bored, anxious, bewildered and I think ‘suspirium’ fits the works very well.. It's like a state of mind of our generation, a mirror,” Lysandre Begijn tells us. We’re greeted unavoidably by her woefully sad faces, their tiny high-pitched wails for help or salvation almost audible as you get close enough to see their pained expressions. Hair or foliage, roots maybe, fall beside their faces, mirroring the tears, anguished brows and pursed lips, anchoring them to their distress. Given the anxiety of the modern world - global pandemics, inflated living costs and impending world wars - it’s easy to sympathise with them.

Heidi Ukkonen sticks two fingers up at such existential doom and humorously reimagines it in a surreal underwater world, creating comical chaos in both subject and form. Painted and sprayed paints make for erratic textures and energy to seemingly otherwise mundane scenes. There’s a transformative quality to the work where distress, boredom and pain become colourful and funny. She dives into the same weariness that the show title suggests where the characters, both above and below sea level, appear fed up. Whether listing lazily in dinghies, smoking cigarettes, chatting to sea birds or floating through the sub-aquatic world, nothing seems to tear the indifference from their faces. The only other emotion we’re given is apparent terror on the face of a man letting out his last muffled scream into the abyss of the ocean, as the bubbles of his final breath rise to the surface, unknown to the skinny-dippers and floaters in the background. Perhaps this is what modern life feels like; calm on the surface, while frantically screaming underneath.