Peter Greenaway ‘The Last Supper’ @ Melbourne Festival

30 10 2009

One of the most advertised features of the Melbourne International Arts Festival is Peter Greenaway’s ‘The Last Supper multimedia extravaganza. The interior of North Melbourne Town Hall has been transformed to mimic the interior of the St. Maria della Grazie Church in Milan – a ‘clone’ of da Vinci’s masterpiece painting high on one wall, and a table stands in the middle of the room with all of the items shown in the painting reproduced in what looks like white plaster.

from exhibition media; click on photograph to link through to original source

from exhibition media; click on photograph to link through to original source

I haven’t seen the painting in person and I imagine this would have been quite amazing in its original setting; this is the first time this installation has been shown outside of Milan.

The projections on the painting are pretty and lovely and I am told a technical wonder; and I liked being immersed in the loud music. Though after the initial fascination with some of the lighting angles etc, it came to feel a bit clinically experimental and without narrative to me (highlighted by the repetition of a number of the sequences). Not that there’s anything wrong with that; perhaps that says more about my lack of knowledge of Greenaway’s work or philosophy.

Both the painting and the opposite wall are projected upon – I stood against a side wall and moving my head left then right to look at each wall at varying intervals actually gave me a bit of travel sickness of a sort (not entirely enjoyable).

I saw this the day before I attended Greenaway’s lecture. I wonder if it may have been more, or in fact less, interesting to see it after the lecture. I would have had more background; though on the other hand, during the lecture I was a bit disappointed to learn that some of the sequences in ‘The Last Supper‘ were in essence not unique and had already been explored in his first venture of this sort ‘The Watchman‘. Again, that may say more about my expectation, but it would have been more powerful to me if the light sequences had something specific to say about this special painting and not a technical bit of fun that could be applied to any painting…

I’m happy I went to see this, but sadly it didn’t blow my mind. However it does has many redeeming points, is worth seeing, and does have something interesting to say about the interaction of moving image in art and the art of installation. Lots of food for thought.

Peter Greenaway’s ‘The Last Supper‘ is at the Melbourne International Arts Festival until 8th November 2009; the projection is 20-minutes long, and is held every half-hour.



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