In a stone courtyard, a forbidding granite wall surrounds a maze of organic pillars as water slowly drips down the metal foliage. This is Wet Labyrinth (with Spontaneous Landscape) by Cristina Iglesias, and is part of the Royal Academy’s annual summer exhibition.
With this latest iteration in an ongoing series since 2005, Iglesias considers the history of labyrinths and mazes, combining the artificial with the natural in a single built environment. If part of it looks familiar when you step inside, its possibly because you’ve seen a horizontal predecessor outside the Bloomberg office in the City of London, where she recreated a couple of lost rivers in the area in sunken ponds.
Here in the Royal Academy’s courtyard, she’s created a mini-maze to explore. Just two entrances, and in theory you’re supposed to go in the one closest to the courtyard’s entrance, but these seemed to be ignored by most people, so just go in either end as you please.
Inside, tall metallic columns covered in roots and leaves fill the space with a steady stream of water dripping slowly down. It’s almost dank in effect, but that seems more an illusion in the mind of what we expect the space to feel like.
It’s slightly otherworldly as well as if you’ve walked into an alien forest from an episode of Doctor Who. And not unlike the Tardis, the interior feels larger than it should, although that’s thanks to strategically placed mirrors than the dimensional twisting of space.
It’s an interesting experience, and one that a lot of people walk past without peering inside, presumably assuming the exterior is the art, when in fact it’s simply concealing what’s within. It can soak up a good few minutes to explore if you step within.
The Wet Labyrinth is in the Royal Academy courtyard until 21st August and is free to visit.