Having ostensibly hollowed out subterranean passageways beneath the Barbican, Robert Kusmirowski’s creation manipulates the senses for an emotional evocation of time and place. The Polish artist’s recreation of a World War Two bunker, his first UK solo exhibit, evokes a harrowing wartime narrative.
From the onset, it’s clear an affecting experience is being orchestrated, as you face the gloom beyond a rusted metal doorway etched in heavy concrete façade. A strong sense of exploration into the unknown overcomes you, while tentatively navigating a network of dimly lit corridors. Decrepit industrial equipment lie dormant, while exposed piping is set against a backdrop of crumbling wall.
Quite at the mercy of what lurks beyond, the atmospheric lighting and shadow brood while inexplicable rumbling and the throb of generators break the eerie silence. You could almost believe this is a forgotten relic unearthed such is the detail of decay.
Branching off into offices and living quarters, battered desks and cabinets are strewn with discarded objects. Haphazardly placed typewriters, faded documents, newspapers, and maps, are caked with dust and dirt. A command centre is tantalising outfitted with a broken safe where you can just imagine potential secrets await discovery.
Robert Kusmirowski revisits his theme of recreating historical scenes with meticulous detail and of tapping into the history of the exhibition’s location. Here the Bunker is housed in the Brutalist concrete architecture of the Barbican Centre; a site previously destroyed by World War Two bombing.
Inspired by historical fact, the often-distorted representation of popular culture, and his imagination, the line between reality and creative license blurs. Skilled in forgeries, the handcrafted objects mimic decay and aging so effectively, visitors question reality and artifice.
If fortunate enough to visit at a quiet moment the psychological effects are amplified. The claustrophobic corridors foster a sense of isolation and being cut off from the world, while fear of the unknown inside and out grows.
Therefore, it’s with relief your steps quicken to the exit as the lure of fresh air and humanity beckons, reflecting on the intolerable conditions of wartime.