DLWPAV

A rosy dusk outside the De La Warr Pavilion’s stairwell. The camera swings in slow-motion side to side across the curved banister, and outside on the balcony, elderly couples waltz gracefully to Schubert’s Nocturne in E Major. It’s a beautiful and moving experience. I’m in a large dark gallery, at the De La Warr, and in the middle is a large double-sided screen on which the film is projected. Outside the room is the actual stairwell. And outside that, outside the curved glass, the waves are crashing onto the beach.

It’s part of Breakwell’s exhibition Keep Things As They Are. (The title is taken from his anti-Conservative leafleting campaign Vote Conservative and keep things as they are). It’s also ironic, as his work was experimental and groundbreaking, and he was one of the key members of the British art avant-garde. He was, but died in 2005, shortly before the re-opening of the Pavilion and its first exhibition, which he’d curated. He is mostly known for his Diary, which he started in 1965 and kept for forty years. It takes different forms: collages, photographs, drawings, text and calligraphy, and video.

I am in a small room now, and on each of the four walls is a life-size charcoal drawing of Thelonious Monk in profile, walking in a circle. I put on the headphones and walk in the same direction, round and round, hearing 12 bars of Monk’s Misterioso played over and over, seeing my reflection in the glass of the drawings. I can make the 12 bars last one circuit if I walk slowly.

Finally, I see a text on a wall: 50 Reasons For Getting Out Of Bed – and they are beautiful reasons: …’Lionel Hampton solo on Stardust. Freshly poured pint of Guinness settling on the bar. White butterfly on purple buddleia…’ (It’s shocking that when he finally gets up it is with pain and nausea from his chemotherapy). Inside the dark room is what appears to be a huge photograph of his face, while his rasping voice reflects on his life. After a while you realise that his face is slowly changing. It has changed from baby to its final sunken state.

It’s deeply moving, and you leave the De La Warr with a New Year’s resolution: make every day count. See it if you can: it closes 13 January.

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