The underwater art of ‘wet unboxing’: why it’s so mesmerising, unsettling and weirdly emotional

From the lumpy carnage of soup let loose to the fizzy clouds of Berocca, artist Alex Frost’s video series submerges objects that reflect life on the go

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In a glass tank filled with fresh water, the Glasgow-trained, London-based artist Alex Frost slowly opens consumer products, to strangely beautiful effect. A carton of New Covent Garden soup, for example, produces a glorious and lumpy vision of carnage as the contents slowly and decorously spill out into the water.

Long interested in repositioning packaged products (his mosaic sculpture of a Ryvita carton is in the permanent collection of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art – GoMA), Frost explains that rather than a statement of anti-consumerism, the video series is redolent of old-fashioned public information films, while the underwater element renders them “emotional, ephemeral and sexy”.

The objects he “unboxes” reflect a life of transience. Frost moved back to his home town of London four years ago, where, he says: “It feels as if every nanometre of space has been priced up and every second is rationed.” Time-limited, he relied on ready-made sandwiches, which feature heavily in this work. Even billowing clouds of dry shampoo reflect life on the go.

A whole tube of Berocca unpacked underwater is the most obviously enjoyable, creating an entrancing fizzy orange cloud. Cold-brew coffeeproves dark and menacing, while a tin of Del Monte fruit salad opens to reveal a balletic cascade of fruit lumps. Perhaps inevitably, Gaviscon also features in this buffet, unleashing billowing fluffy pink clouds to settle the results of too many hasty meals.

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