Enter a different world at MK Gallery

TESTING TIMES: Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca in Sensorium Tests
TESTING TIMES: Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca in Sensorium Tests

IF you’re looking for a walk on the surreal side, a visit to the MK Gallery’s latest exhibition could be just the ticket.

The gallery, right outside the Milton Keynes theatre, is currently playing host to the latest exhibition by San Francisco-born artist Daria Martin.

It consists of four separate video installations, and takes its name from the newest, Sensorium Tests, a 10 minute film that revolves around a recently-recognised neurological condition called ‘mirror-touch synaesthesia’. People with the condition experience a sense of touch on their own bodies when they see other people, or even objects, being touched.

Sensorium Tests is intense to say the least, focusing on a woman undergoing a series of tests in a room, while two mysterious characters watch her from behind a two-way mirror.

I won’t try and dissect the films on show in this exhibition, but watching them is certainly an experience I’d recommend, even if you don’t try to analyse them and just enjoy them from a cinematic point of view.

The others include Soft Materials, which was shot in an artificial intelligence laboratory at the University of Zurich and sees naked humans interacting with various moving machines.

The humans lie with the machines, allow them to touch their faces and even dance with them, making the viewer ponder the relationship between person and machine.

Closeup Gallery sees a magician and his assistant playing a game of cards, communicating only through glances, to an upbeat soundtrack. I really wasn’t sure what this one was all about, but it still made for an absorbing watch, with the colours and patterns made by the cards contrasting with the strange relationship between the man and woman.

The quality of the films is fantastic and the interior of the gallery has been reconfigured specially for this exhibition, making a visit something you can really immerse yourself in.

If you want to find out more about the films and the ideas behind them, Daria Martin will be at the gallery for a free talk on Thursday, February 23 at 6.30pm, and there’s also an exhibition tour on Saturday, March 10 at 2pm.

A whole programme of other events has been themed around the exhibition, including Friday night screenings of films selected by the artist, including James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar, and Jean Cocteau’s 1930 film, Blood of a Poet.

The staff at the gallery were helpful and keen to find out what I thought about the exhibition. I hope anyone who’s interested in contemporary art will get along to see Sensorium Tests, which is at the gallery until April 8.

The surreal nature of the exhibition was compounded by a visit on the same day to Campbell Park, just a few minutes’ walk from the gallery.

A large slice of beautifully-kept green space, the park is pretty much invisible from the roads, hence the fact that I’d been previously unaware of its existence.

With a large network of paths, ponds, an open air theatre and a cricket ground, this seems to be an excellent resource for Milton Keynes, and I hope it’s well used.

As with most parks, a visit in the spring or summer is probably best, and the wind at the top of the belvedere was eye-wateringly fierce. But seeing sheep in the centre of Milton Keynes is a worthy experience at any time of year. As I said, all a bit surreal...