Miriam Naeh: Tall Tales, Tall Tails
27 October - 24 November 2018

Review by Cara Bray for Boundary Online
Even as adults, there are certain childhood games that are dark enough to still haunt imaginations years later. One particular fear-inducing routine I remember vividly, involved pretending to be a caretaker of a waxwork museum, tasked with investigating the strange noises emerging after closing hours.

Upon entering the darkened room, the other participants would pretend to be the waxworks, slowly lurking in the shadows, only moving when they couldn’t be seen.

Much like the pretence of most horror films, the scare factor of this supposedly child-friendly game was the suspended uncertainty of what was yet to come. An inventive mind responds to the unexplained with twisted apprehension, chilling possibilities suddenly filling the beheld blanks. The life-like waxwork, the wandering eyes of a painted portrait, the unsettling creak upstairs, on the surface harmless oddities but something a heightened awareness can’t resist fabricating with dread.

Walking into Miriam Naeh’s ‘Tall Tales, Tall Tails,’ I’ve stumbled across the remnants of a scene I’m not so sure if I’m supposed to have seen. In the centre of the room, a burnt out fire not so long ago extinguished, reveals small skeletal bones settled amongst glowing embers and discarded objects, ashes consuming the final particles of life.

Five white plinths surround the middle space, harbouring habitual evidence of unfamiliar life forms that remain unmoved since my entrance. Bulging bodies ooze eerily from behind the painted surfaces, unable to fully contain their swollen, lumpy mass. Nostrils, nipples, toes and tongues creep outwardly from dark holes, searching blindly for a hint of presence, whilst videos implanted inside the plinths beckon me to move closer, but still offer no explanation of the narrative on display.

Impossible to focus on each bizarre anatomy at the same time, the bulbous shapes appear to grow and expand, textures starting to decay within moments of inspection. The startling ubiquity of these figures, places me into an immediate environment of surveillance, caution beginning to curb my curiosity. Is this a master trap? A conspiracy disguised as stillness?

Constructing an incognito setting for theatrical performance, Naeh plans a provocative plot twist, blurring fantasy with reality and snagging the viewer with their own intrigue. Something more sinister is at play here and instinctively I have the urge to promptly escape, aware that I’ve positioned myself right at the heart of potential debauchery. As multiple fictions invent themselves and fertile ideas spring to mind, Naeh cleverly prods at human vulnerability, exploring the shared, unmistakable fear of the unknown and the ironic persuasion of our very own imaginations leading us there.