Carsten Höller: Decision – Hayward Gallery


Carsten Höller: Decision is this summer’s blockbuster at the Hayward Gallery, an experimental and interactive exhibition with slides – slides! – coming out of the gallery’s roof. Intrigued, I booked a ticket for the Bank Holiday weekend.

The show is structured around the theme of “decisions”, allowing the participant the chance to choose for themselves how they will approach a particular work, and experience mind-altering sensations.

The first work, Decision Corridors, apparently had different entrances but I didn’t notice, being too concerned with getting inside. It was formed of numerous tunnels, pitch-dark inside with only occasional pinpricks of light to show the way. The photo I took later on shows just how winding these corridors are. Walking through them, with no way of seeing where I was going, was incredibly surreal.

Decision Corridors, seen from above

Later works included Half Clock, “the most complicated clock in existence”, and the Pill Clock, which drops a single red and white capsule onto the gallery floor every three seconds. As you can imagine, a considerable pile has sprung up by now. You are offered the chance to swallow your pill and I did so, Alice-in-Wonderland style, not really expecting anything to happen (it didn’t).

Pill Clock

Another work, Flying Mushrooms, incorporated models of Amanita muscaria (fly agaric mushrooms) which are red and white hallucinogenic mushrooms, famous in folklore. Here, the models have been halved and placed back together the wrong way round, and you have to push the sculpture around to move it.

Flying Mushrooms

The Forests was a dual-screen video with a 3D headseat and earphones, with which you could experience a snow-covered forest at night. It was surprisingly calming. In the same room were Two Roaming Beds (Grey), which sounded brilliant: “These robotic twin beds roam the lower floor of the exhibition like a pair of restless, insomniac twins.” However, hiring them for the night costs £500, so I think I’ll give them a miss.

Two Roaming Beds

Upstairs, The Pinocchio Effect was something I didn’t look at but as it seemed to involve two people at a time, and Two Flying Machines looked like the most fun exhibition but as the queue was an hour and a half long, I didn’t bother. The Half Mirror Room and giant dice (or die) was disorientating.

Half Mirror Room

The Upside Down Goggles in the same room were bizarre to say the least. Without a friend to hold on to I felt odd walking around.

The final part of the exhibition – and the highlight for me – were the Isomeric Slides, “a sculpture you can travel inside and a device for experiencing a condition somewhere between delight and madness” according to Höller. Whatever the theory, it was a lot of fun to slide down to the bottom of the gallery.

I had a great time here, although I was disappointed at the number of exhibits where it seemed to be expected that you had someone else with you – what about us solo exhibition-goers? Nevertheless, it was good fun.


Burning News: recent art from Russia – Hayward Gallery

Burning News: recent art from Russia is an exhibition in the Hayward Gallery‘s Project Space. It actually closed on Sunday, but I managed to pay it a visit before then.

The exhibition consisted of sculpture and photography by Aslan Gaisumov and Tim Parchikov, as well as videos by Evgeny Granilshchikov, Mikhail Maksimov, Sasha Pirogova and Dimitri Venkov. There was an interesting variety of work on show, and I’m not sure it was really my thing (except for the burning of the newspapers), but it was a thought-provoking way to pass some time.

The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture – Hayward Gallery

When I came out of the Tate Modern, I decided that as it was such a nice day I would walk along the Thames Path to the Southbank Centre. After a frozen yogurt from the pink Snog bus, I headed into the Hayward Gallery to see The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture.

In general, I find that I tend to prefer older art (from the nineteenth century and earlier) to modern paintings and the like. However, I feel rather differently about sculpture. In my (completely uneducated) opinion, it gets a bit dull looking at yet another white marble figure, so the way in which modern sculptors use different materials to create imaginative and radical art is much more appealing to me. For this reason, I was looking forward to The Human Factor, which brings together new work from 25 international artists who use the human form in new and exciting ways.

There was an incredible array of sculpture on display, from Thomas Schütte Krieger’s huge statues, made of wood which has been coloured and oiled, battle scarred and contorted, to Paloma Varga Weisz’s double-headed “Falling Woman”. Cathy Wilkes’ untitled sculpture of 2011 shows a disturbing tableau of contorted figures surrounded by battle equipment, while Maurizio Cattelan has created a frighteningly lifelike representation of John F. Kennedy in his coffin. Figures have been cast from wax, formed from mannequins with added material, sculpted from bronze and given a beehive for a head (the latter is Pierre Huyghe’s 2012 creation – the first and, probably, only time I will ever see a sign warning that “The following exhibition contains live bees”). Jeff Hoons’ “Bear and Policeman” of 1988 shows a giant teddy bear towering over a rotund policeman, while Martin Honert’s unsettling sculpture of his former English teacher recreates the shadows of the black and white photo from which the image was taken. Other sculptures evoke living statues, of the kind you see in Covent Garden surrounded by tourists – it is surreal to view statues of people pretending to be statues. Mark Wallinger’s “Ecce Homo” of 1999 displays a man with a shorn head and a crown of thorns – an allegory of persecution.

Even with the breadth of sculpture on offer, I still managed to find favourites. One, entitled “Tell my mother not to worry”, is a marble sculpture of the artist’s four-year-old daughter disguised as a ghost. This is achieved by the sculpting of a white sheet which trails along the ground, with extremely realistic folds; it suggests that there really is something underneath.

This piece was by Ryan Gander, as was another of my favourites, a “re-imagining” of Degas’ Little Dancer. You see an empty plinth ahead, then turn to the right to see the dancer on tiptoe, staring out of the window. The sculpture is easily recognisable as the Degas character, and I liked the attempt to suggest that she had her own autonomy and views.

My final favourite piece probably made the strongest impact on me. Located in a small room by itself, Maurizio Cattelan’s “Him” is a kneeling schoolboy figure with his back to the entrance, hands clasped in an attitude of prayer. As you approach and turn to see the boy’s face, however, you see he is not a boy at all, but Hitler. This discovery raises more questions – what is Hitler praying for? Is he seeking forgiveness for his past actions? Or is he asking for help to continue his evil plans?

I loved this exhibition and I think there is something for everyone here. The Hayward Gallery always tries to show something different; it doesn’t always succeed, but it has done so here.

This is Kev. He is at the entrance to the Hayward Gallery and his clothes are changed every day of the exhibition!

Martin Creed: What’s the point of it? – Hayward Gallery

I nearly didn’t go to see Martin Creed: What’s the point of it? at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank. I’d heard some ‘interesting’ things about it and I wasn’t sure if it was the kind of thing I’d enjoy. However, the exhibition proved so popular that it was extended for a week, and I went to see it on Thursday evening, after work and before I went to the theatre. I definitely advocate going to see exhibitions during late-night weekday opening – the exhibition was really quiet, and the balloon room – which can have queues lasting up to an hour – was nearly empty.

Creed’s work belongs to the category I normally term as ‘crap modern art’, and I found myself asking the question posed in the exhibition’s title – “What’s the point of it?” – rather a lot as I walked around. Which begs the question, why did I go and see it? Curiosity, I suppose.

Creed names his works by numbers and in fairness to him his work is incredibly varied. On the one hand, among the exhibits are a piece of Blu-Tack stuck to a wall, a crumpled piece of paper, and a number of wall protrusions. More interesting to me was the large ‘Mothers’ sign that whirls around your head as you enter the exhibition: the idea behind this is that when you are little, your mother seems big and scary, as does this sign. Creed’s love of order is evident in the Lego bricks piled one on top of the other in size order, and the chairs and boxes piled up in similar ways.

The exhibition even reaches outside, with a couple of works on display on the terraces. One of these is a car which randomly bursts into life, its doors shooting open and its radio blaring, although I was more concerned with how on earth they got the car up there in the first place. On another terrace there was a film of a penis going up and down (the woman standing next to me remarked “I’ve seen better”).

The ‘balloon room’, aka Work No. 200, Half the air in a given space, was the best. The room was filled with balloons taking up half the air, resulting in a really fun room where you wade through tons of balloons with static lifting up your hair. I had so much fun here I thought it was worth the admission price alone.

There were paintings and pictures too, as well as sculptures and installations. The pictures using highlighters appealed to my precise nature, and I really liked the prints made using broccoli! The final work, though, left me completely bewildered. The infamous “sick film” shows people walking in front of the camera, vomiting and walking away, except in one case where a woman walks up, squats down and takes a shit instead. You can also buy this film in the gift shop – I am honestly baffled as to why anyone would want to watch someone defecating or being sick, or if they did, why they would pay £15 for a DVD rather than just popping down to their local high street on a Friday night. Oh well.

Though I remain sceptical of many of the exhibits, I do feel that the exhibition as a whole proved more than the sum of its parts, with interesting things to say about order, space, ambiguity and not taking the art world too seriously. It was more thought-provoking than I had expected and on balance, I don’t regret going to see it – even if I can’t get the image of someone being sick out of my head…

Light Show – The Hayward Gallery

Light Show, the current exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank, has been enjoying enormous popularity since it opened on 30 January. Tickets are selling out well in advance, so I decided to buy my ticket a couple of weeks ago in order to visit the exhibition yesterday. Setting my alarm for 8 am on a Sunday morning was torturous, but certainly worth it.

2013 0310 Hayward Gallery

The exhibition explores the use of light to shape space and experiment with different forms. Installations encompassed clear and coloured lights, fluorescent strip lighting, bulbs (including one designed to represent moonlight), mini LED lights, sparkling effects and continuous illumination. Some of the installations were enclosed in different rooms. I was amazed, impressed and enlightened (excuse the pun) by the exhibition.

I had a number of favourite exhibits. One was the very first one I saw – Cylinder II (2012) by Leo Villareal. This consists of strips of LED lights (19,600 in total) arranged in a cylinder, which move in hypnotic and evocative ways. The lights are actually controlled by a computer programme, but they are stunning. Another was Anthony McCall’s You and I, Horizontal (2005). This is in a room of its own and a projector throws out a beam of light – essentially a light sculpture that you can walk through.

Another favourite was Ivan Navarro’s Reality Show (Silver) (2010). This is a small room with four doors, around the size of a telephone box. When you are inside you can look up or down and see mirrors reflecting rows of light endlessly, as if you are in a long column or pipe. You can see yourself in the doors, but outside the sculpture, others can see you inside – a claustrophobic and unsettling experience. Navarro grew up in Chile during Pinochet’s dictatorship and the installation echoes the surveillance and control inherent in the system.

One thing that both surprised and impressed me was the extent to which children seemed to be enjoying themselves. Personally it wouldn’t occur to me to take a small child to a modern art exhibition, but there were loads there on this Sunday morning and they were fascinated by the exhibits – from the small baby amazed by the twinkling lights to the little boys excited by the rooms of coloured light.

Light Show is on until 28th April. You will almost certainly have to book in advance, and I also recommend booking the first slot available and turning up as soon as possible – in theory you can arrive at any time during the hour stated on your ticket, but even with visitor limits the space can get very crowded and early arrival gives you the best chance of beating the crowds. I’m so glad I came here – I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it, but I really did.