Wapping glows with a bit of industrial light and magic

<i>Conductor</i> | The Wapping Project, London
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The Independent Online

Another obsolete industrial building in London (a power station, even) has been turned into an inspiring venue for contemporary art - it's almost a law of culture these days. But unlike Tate Modern this one hasn't been lottery funded and it has taken eight years to get to this intermediate stage: the old engine room and turbine house is a restaurant/ bar, the old boiler house an exhibition space.

Another obsolete industrial building in London (a power station, even) has been turned into an inspiring venue for contemporary art - it's almost a law of culture these days. But unlike Tate Modern this one hasn't been lottery funded and it has taken eight years to get to this intermediate stage: the old engine room and turbine house is a restaurant/ bar, the old boiler house an exhibition space.

Appropriately enough given the site's history, Jane Prophet's installation, Conductor, makes use of water and electricity. The work consists of a grid of 120 lengths of glowing electro-luminescent cable suspended above the flooded floor of the cavernous space. The green lengths are reflected in the water, but dimly. My initial reaction, confined to the relatively small viewing platform, was disappointment, especially when compared to 20:50, the similar installation by Richard Wilson which is permanently on display at the Saatchi Gallery - the room in that case perfectly reflected by a mirror-like surface of oil. But, at Wapping, as your eyes gradually adjust to the dark, you make out a bit more of the brick and tile circumference, and you realise that the four solid columns in the space have been rendered nearly invisible by the idiosyncratic lighting. The work succeeds in making the interior mysterious.

Over time too, the reflected verticals of light become stronger, and the reflected world becomes engrossing. It looks as if the water gets sharply deeper - to a 100ft or so - and then shallower again at the back of the space. (In fact, the entire space is only flooded to a depth of 11 inches.) Perspective accounts for the apparent deepening, but what causes the eye to surface again is the fact that the space has light entering it at the back, so reducing the darkness of the water and the strength of the reflected green vertical lines. This effect becomes all the more noticeable - like a staircase - when a pump starts to operate, rippling the water and setting up synchronised wiggling of the reflected verticals. But the rippling effect only happens once every half an hour, which isn't nearly often enough - most viewers are in and out again (for a coffee; for a look around the fascinating site) without witnessing the full illusion.

'Conductor': Wapping Project, E1 (020 7680 2080), to 21 Dec

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