Subject to_change: Cupid

Fierce Festival continues this week at mac with Cupid, an interactive art installation that casts light on an eternal question: what is hidden in the secretive depths of the heart? Through an intriguing selection of elements of audience participation, London-based company Subject to_change combines theatre and art to create a uniquely inspiring experience.

First, participants are led into what appears to be a narrow, whitewashed room, separated from an adjacent larger room concealed behind a floor to ceiling translucent sheet. Plaster of Paris halves of hearts are arranged on a table in a production line, drying under bright heat lamps as they wait to be joined together to create a whole.

After being admitted to the second room one by one and greeted by artists Abigail Conway and Lara Haworth, each person is invited to take a seat at the large wooden work desk in the centre and begin to decorate their own heart sculpture. Though tentative at first, all of the participants soon began experimenting with the brightly coloured paints, all creating designs that were inspired, thoughtful, simple, vibrant or abstract but, as would be expected, all completely different. In this way, the true nature of the variety and beauty of the heart was revealed.

Yet, without time to perfect their designs, the participants were then led to a third room to begin the next stage of their ‘journey’ and the quest to discover the secrets of love. All given travel rucksacks and clutching their over-sized, somewhat cumbersome hearts, everyone is treated as guests arriving in the darkened space, lit only by ghostly spotlights creating an effect of moonlight. Lying on the floor and staring up towards to dark canopy, the guests are then led through an exploration of the stars through a relaxing yet captivating narrative from the two artists. Stars glimmer into view above, appearing and disappearing in flurries of white and coloured light sequences. This presented the notion of Cupid’s presence in the stars, leading to the completion of individual maps of the guests’ ‘journey’ through the cosmos, answering questions of love, past and present.

Finally, these ‘maps of the heart’ are placed inside the heart sculptures which are in turn hung upon threads, suspending them in mid-air. The next stage of the journey saw the curtains rise on one side to reveal yet another room where cinema style seats were tiered again the furthest wall. After the guests take their seats, the next stage of the expedition is explained. Using real, full size bows and arrows, the guests are called up in twos to aim and shoot at the colourful line of hanging hearts, gently swaying on their strings.

Through much amusement, several of the hearts were successfully pierced with the Cupid’s arrows, leaving their targets swinging in graceful unison in the backdrop of their shadows. Some arrows, however, were less accurate, simply hitting the back curtain or glancing off the edges of their intended hearts. However, to complete this meditative and creative sequence, the guests are reminded that in love, the arrows that miss can hold just as much importance as the ones that hit their targets, providing a thoughtful and uplifting concluding message to the event.

Finally, the arrows finding their way to their intended hearts are mapped into a unique constellation, sealing in the stars the exact fates of each heart. Cupid is taking place throughout next week right up until Sunday with multiple performance times and is a stunning achievement from Subject to_change. With the inspired devised combination of art, astronomy, theatre and archery, this is an experience not to be missed; a truly cathartic, thought-provoking and extraordinary exhibition. Or performance. Or workshop. Or exploratory journey into the cosmos? You’ll have to see for yourself.

Go to Fierce Festival’s website for more details on Cupid and other upcoming events

Words and photography by Anna Lumsden


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