Under the Spell at Moonstuck CafeUnder the Spell is an art space that is physically under Moonstruck Cafe, in its basement, and metaphorically under being moonstruck. The underground location and the meaning of moonstruck inform and shape the exhibition’s programme. To be moonstruck is to be crazily in love, to dive into irrationality, to be engulfed by powerful enchanting influences. Under the Spell (UTS) takes on board the implicit romance, the politics of love and desire but also stretches its meaning to engage further with the many ways one can be overtaken. UTS’ programme is anchored in two polar opposite extreme states: apathy and ecstasy; the themes explored span from nationalism, the beauty industry, tourism, image making, gambling mentality, belief systems, corporatisation of experience.

A spell is an enchantment, it evokes magic and at the same, it also refers to how we arrange and articulate ordinary words. Language is a UTS point of interest, how it is created and how it can be distorted. Some of the aims of the programme are to dissect the unison of some speeches repeated by inertia, to question imposed inalterability of circumstances and to test a promise’s length of breath. To be under something can imply an overpowering situation, UTS also wants to defy forces that keep society in a voluntary submission, expose dynamics of power and challenge widespread assumptions.

Spell also refers to a period of time, and UTS is a windowless place like casinos, or shopping malls - places designed to confuse the awareness of time, to puzzle the senses, to encourage compulsion. Places like these, sealed from the outside world, have high absorption and concentration of energy. This also recalls metaphorical spaces that one can’t escape due to some mysterious charm such as in Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel, Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce - a spell with such a gravitational pull that keep those fictional characters in a labyrinthine psychological loop with no physical exit. 

Still considering the physicality of the space, UTS flips roles: it is the café’s gallery, not the gallery’s café. In a café lies the symbolic dynamic of a place of encounter, fertile for creativity and conversations over a warm cup of coffee; they can become a cultural epicentre such as Café de Flore in Paris. On the other hand, cafés also reveal the symbolic dynamic of Silicon Valley dictated behaviour where one goes to nurture their corporate-sounding identity to create polished content; they can become a touristic background such as Café de Flore in Paris. Cafés can be and have been the core of critical thinking, a convivial hub for exchanging experiences as well as the place of instagrammable flat whites. The spotlight here is on the question of foreground/background: what is beauty, what is shareable, what is notable? Lastly, it is a comment on the massive leisure structure some of the museums have become with multiple gift shops, members’ rooms and overpriced cafés spread along their floors.

In the spirit of the time we are under, Under the Spell delves into a polar opposition where the extremes can share the same outcome. A sense of hypnosis, lack of control and agency, surrender, blindness, may come from delusions, desensitisation, repetitive behaviours, fake aesthetics of recycled ideas that mimic originality, but also from Baroque-Tragic style frenzies, fervent hope, emotional euphorias, being magnetised, feeling passionately about something, burning with desire. One can lose themselves in other bodies, corporations, politics, nations, jobs, roles, trends. As both may seem like a choice, a decision, there is a difference between giving in and giving up.

Under the Spell is

Curated by Jéssica Varrichio

Visual identiy by Luke Jarvis


Liam Clifford, Xavier Aballí, Marc Aballí, Ignasi Minuesa, Paul Nawrot, Matt Nawrot, Kevin Kingston, Theodora Anthony

art space beneath Moonstruck Cafe
153 South Lambeth Road

Monday - Sunday
8am - 4pm