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all old spaces are full: hyperspace exhibition at the majestic

all old spaces are full: hyperspace exhibition at the majestic

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The Majestic has its home on lists with the city’s other old ‘empty’ buildings, but like them, it isn’t really empty at all. This isn’t about some esoteric idea of it being a metaphorical suitcase for old memories or faded dreams; or about relics from its glorious – or not always so glorious – past echoing from the nightclub days, bingo days, cinema days. 

It just really is not empty. It’s full of stuff. The decor from the Majestyk nightclub is still there, the clash of greco-roman gilt against Cold War neon and chrome tattered but present. The bar still faces the door, but the only beer in the building is a case on a table on the balcony, presumably left over from the opening of the new exhibition, Hyperspace, that began there last week. So the balcony in this old empty building isn’t empty either, you see. There’s a table up there with a case of beer on it. 

The vast space above the dust-crusted floor is sliced and dominated by the flat-earth disc that hung above the dancers; it still does hang there, just, a couple of support wires holding it in place while other support wires hang loosely, the disc now supporting them. You could still dance underneath it if you wanted; there’s room. But pretty soon, it looks like, the last wires will snap, or be cut by a builder, and the disc won’t fill the air anymore, but the floor.

It’s a physical state of fullness I’m talking about; things, matter, molecules, atoms; objects visible and invisible b ehind the entrance off City Square. And until Christmas, down a grandish staircase just inside the doors, in a high ceilinged cellar, Dutch artist Melvin Moti’s film, The Eightfold Dot, will fill a square screen with a projected 35mm narrative of things in spaces, like the things in spaces upstairs; three dimensions depicted in two dimensions so the viewer, according to the accompanying leaflet, can “contemplate the fourth dimension: a geometrical space beyond human experience.” 

In other words, things that are there, despite the apparent emptiness; and things that just look really cool. White dots expand across the black screen into white dot-fields; they disappear from view behind crystalline, translucent cubes, a call back to the centenary of X-ray crystallography, invented in a Leeds physics lab. The cubes seem to be filled with something, like little dislocated filmsets rotating through space; although those make-believe interiors might only be illusive refractions of the opposite surfaces of the cube. But there’s something in there, visible or not.

Lines, cubes, and more dots follow. It might not be like the silent movies they showed here when the Majestic was a picture house, but story-telling is a matter of degree – a story can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Like the Majestic’s hidden fullness, the film seems at first to have no form, but things do happen. At one point near the end, one of the crystallographic cubes, spinning slowly in darkness, is suddenly taken from the screen. There’s a tense moment as the film projector whirrs and footsteps can be heard from the dancefloor above. Then a straight white line appears. It might not be much, but that’s melodrama; a cube went away, it was dark, we waited, then a white line appeared. Events, tension, release, and questions: that’s a story.

There’s a risk that the building above could overshadow the impact of the rapid narrative flickering on a molecular level in the cellar below, that Moti’s movie will be a sideshow compared to seeing inside one of Leeds’ most famous old buildings. And the opportunity to see the Majestic paused while it waits for the next reel shouldn’t be missed. But a trip downstairs to see the tiny precision of The Eightfold Dot should hush the words “old empty building” on the lips of anyone tempted to talk that way about the Majestic, or any unused building. In small ways, not always visible, all these old spaces are full.

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