drowning hercules | london | 2001

Thomas Kilpper
Drowning Hercules

14 – 30 September 2001
Private View: 13 September 18:00 – 21:00 Introduction by David Thorp (Curator of Contemporary Art Projects, The Henry Moore Foundation)
Opening Hours: Tue – Sun 12:00 – 18:00

Riddell House, Basement – St. Thomas’ Hospital
Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1

German artist, Thomas Kilpper, has been working over the last eight months as artist in residence at Riddell House, a former nurses’ home of St. Thomas’ hospital. Kilpper’s work instead of celebrating the opening of a new building temporarily commemorates the end of one. Drowning Hercules will exist only until Riddell House is demolished to make way for a new children’s hospital.

Drowning Hercules stands between the past and the future of the site, a momentary pause for reflection and look back at the history of Riddell House before the site enters its next phase. For Kilpper a building is not simply a four walled structure to cut into and work with. He goes as well into its history to find out what has happened on this site in the past. In this case the title of the work refers to the site’s history. In 1870 a stone throw away from Riddell House’s site stood for some 120 years the very first purpose-built circus in the world, Astley’s ‘Royal Amphitheatre of the Arts’. Also in the vicinity was the residence of William Blake, ‘Hercules Building’ named after the strong man in Philip Astley’s circus. The circus, like Kilpper’s piece, was made out of old wood. Astley offered gin and beer to those who brought him the remnants of the old Covent Garden hustings.

Situated in the basement of Riddell House, Drowning Hercules has been made entirely out of abandoned drawers, cupboards, tables, doors and parquet flooring which once furnished the nurses’ rooms. With a touch of irony the wood that was once forcibly cut into flooring and furnishing has been forcefully led back again into the form and appearance of a tree. The function which the wood served remains exposed in parts of the tree.

In the space’s resonating silence the tree stands implanted in the bottom of the former swimming baths. Spanning the height of the basement room it presses against the glass roof as if trying to break out of the confinement of the space and into the daylight. Created in a organic process its sprawling branches spread like tentacles.

The tree project is a continuation of Kilpper’s temporary large-scale site related work that draws on the history of spaces. Last year as part of the South London Gallery’s Projects initiative Kilpper created a gigantic wood-cut at Orbit House, Southwark which merged the histories of the site as a boxing ring, the area of Southwark and his own personal history. In 1999, Kilpper’s carvings onto the entire floor of a building, near Frankfurt, disclosed the site’s history from its uses as a Nazi interrogation centre to a U.S military camp.

The exhibition is accompanied by a video by Hector Hazard which documents the process of the developing work.

The project has been made possible by the generous support of London Arts and the Goethe Institut.

For press information and images please contact Sally Lai & Ifat Cafri on 07960 371843 or via e-mail on drowning_hercules AT hotmail.com