Cover image of the review
Installation view of Adrian Villar Rojas, The End of Imagination, 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrian Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

Adrián Villar Rojas: The End of Imagination

1 Apr 2023
Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) 3 Dec - 16 Jul 2023

A person standing in a storied place will, without much prompting, imagine it as it once was. A ruin is rebuilt in the mind; a childhood home is conjured where a new house stands. The imagination, set in motion by a place, historical remnant, or artefact, rebuilds what has passed.

And so this is how an old oil bunker, long ago drained of its contents, begins to fill again in our minds, slicking our throats and lungs with petrol. We are talking now about the Tank—the new subterranean exhibition space at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. A 2,200 square metre decommissioned oil bunker, it was built during the Second World War on orders from the British Admiralty, which was concerned about the lack of resources in the region if Singapore fell to the Japanese (as it did in 1942). A friend had visited the space just before it was cleaned up for art and described it as dark, dank, and eerie; iridescent oily pools were still on the ground and roots from ficus trees had snuck in through cracks in the concrete. A reclaiming of sorts, the roots searching in the engineered void.

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