From June 26th until September 14th, the South London Gallery is hosting a group exhibition “Last Seen Entering the Biltmore” which brings together new commissions and existing works that summon ideas of artifice reminiscent of stage sets and scenographic tools. Instead of conjuring illusionary environments, these works knowingly disclose a perspective from the “backstage”.
Backstage, in this context, refers to a position that is witness to artistic transformation, experimentation and subversion; a space off-stage or screen where the demands of the centre stage do not apply. Last Seen Entering the Biltmore considers experiences mediated through thresholds such as the TV monitor, cinema screen, theatre curtain, and stage, as well as sets and props – objects suspended between rehearsal and ritual, mimicry and fiction.
The name of the exhibition was taken from Gary Indiana’s collection of short fiction, plays and poems. The book’s title was inspired by the unsolved murder of Elisabeth Short, nicknamed the Black Dahlia, who was last seen entering the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel in 1947. Her gruesome end caused quite a stir in a city devoted to artifice, and it’s this element of pretence and the construction of make-believe scenarios, which this group show explores.