Pique is a multiform exhibition about the modern obsession with beauty and its potentially devastating impact upon self-esteem. My experience of it was strange and occasionally interesting, but hampered by a disjointed structure and underlying sense of vacuity. Despite the admirable degree of effort made by the curators, the show cannot be recommended on the basis of its price tag.
The exhibition was put together by The Breadbin Project, a company specialising in site-specific theatre. For Pique, they took over Madame Geisha nightclub, which was either a clever choice or a most fortunate coincidence: there was an irony to exploring the theme of beauty in an environment where it is often treated so shallowly.
The show was split into three segments, with a mixture of video, sculpture, and performance art. It was threaded by a loose narrative featuring Jane Doe, a fictional character obsessed with popular perceptions of beauty, and soon undone by her vanity. Her story was related piecemeal throughout the exhibition, as we gained insight into her tortured life.
This was an original approach to a tired theme, and so there came a sense of style over substance; yet even the style was broken, as Pique never seemed to flow. The second segment was too long and had us standing impatiently out in the rain, dampening – pun intended – our enthusiasm. In fact, it took everyone a couple of minutes to realise that this was part of the exhibition.
Towards the end, a glance around the small group of fellow spectators showed me that the show had invoked a mixture of boredom, mild surprise, and – most offensively – amusement. Sadly, nobody seemed impressed. The final segment was intended to be climactic, but it petered out without impact. Upon leaving, the rain soon washed over our memory of Pique.