Muhammad Ali described “The Near Room” as a mental space he would enter during a boxing match – an otherworldly state where you are accutley aware of your own mortality. Sophie Cundale’s new moving-image work, The Near Room (2020), gives substance to this imagined space. Set in a vivid hallucination in the mind of a disorientated boxer, The Near Room muddles historic references with the fantastical and supernatural...
The Near Room opens with a serious tone, centred on the intense focus of the protagonist boxer in the lead up to a fight. Once in the ring, and after the referee has counted to three, the video work takes an unexpected turn to represent the delirious state of the still knocked-out boxer. The boxer’s reality becomes entangled with a tale of a queen with a rare neurological condition – Cotard Delusion, where the sufferer believes they are the walking dead, experiencing the sensation of their body decomposing.
Through a shift to a theatrical acting style, within a visibly constructed stage set, and with themes of mad nobility and violent conflict, alongside absurd comedic moments – the work feels almost Shakespearean. There are certainly gory moments. It’s a film that gets under your skin and makes you more aware of the breath in your lungs and blood in your veins – it makes life seem more fragile. It succeeds in telling a compelling, entertaining, fast-paced tale (the running time is only 32 minutes) and, if you are like me, it draws you in to repeat viewings to contemplate the many possible interpretations.
Sophie Cundale: The Near Room
Bonington Gallery, Sat 3 Oct 2020 - Sat 21 Nov 2020