MIRRORCITY : Hayward Gallery
This exhibition advertised itself as 'London artists working in a digital world', which sounded really interesting and my sort of thing, I expected contemporary fine art with a technology focus and a wide mix of multi disciplinary work. The Hayward gallery has a strong reputation for excellent exhibitions, but a tendency to be rather expensive so I have not been for some time. I had actually forgotten the uniqueness of the interior building and found myself again fascinated by the industrial shapes and wood-like concrete finish. The work sat well in this space and in many cases complemented or used the space effectively. For example the subversive posters lining the full hight of the back wall spanning three floors, which added to the powerfully ridiculous slogans.
During my visit there were live performances taking place, in the form of pairs of contemporary dancers, engaged in a play of tension and support. Extremely slowly, working together, leaning and pulling each other up or sinking down to the floor. Although I was not massively inspired by this work I appreciated the atmosphere a live event brings to the gallery space. It created tension and focus, interrupted the visitors journey around the space and certainly encouraged an audience to stop and gather. Other pieces had the potential for performance, such as the stage by Pil and Galia Kollectiv. I found this piece quite interesting, the way it looked like a graph made 3D. There were recorded sounds on headphones from band performances, taken place on the stage. However I felt I wanted more, to see an actual live event or at the very least a video or projection of these events to bring the work to life and see if in an enhanced state.
One of my favourite pieces in the exhibition was by Emma McNally featuring large map like images, hand drawn and hung in an artificially created hexagonal room. I liked the way they looked like official documents from a distance, yet close up were imaginary landscapes, hand drawn and organic. The detail in the symbols and mark making was intriguing and standing in the room a sense of calm was generated.
The stand out piece of the exhibition by a long way, was the installation by Lindsay Seers entitled Nowhere Less Now, this huge boat inspired structure was from the outside impressive and dominating in the space and a real experience within. On entering each person was given headphones and guided by an attendant with a torch, up a platform, to a seat and told to plug in their headphones. In front of the raised audience were two suspended projection screens, one a huge perfect sphere and directly above like a mirror, a convex circle. The projection mapping on these screens was perfectly matched, making them come to life as objects and really create a sense of a 3D image. At one point they became spinning moons and the realism in their image and suspended form, was magical. The story was Verbatim, featuring the artist and her memories and relationship with her father and both their struggles with schizophrenia. It became apparent that this split personality disorder was what the two screens represented, they appeared to mirror each other in style and position but often differed in image. Complementing or contrasting each other, working together, fluid, or working apart. The soundtrack was also beautiful and powerful, often featuring strange but intense cello lines, manipulated by digital effects, beautiful and haunting. Similarly the artists voice was compelling to listen to and her story an intriguing mix of past and present. The images presented included a mix of historical footage and generated material, often featuring the artist dressed in quite oppressive make up, reminiscent of vaudeville theatre. I stayed and watched this piece for two runs compelled by the imagery, environment and story. I loved how this installation triggered the senses through the immersive world it created and the quality of skill and delivery.
With the exception of the Nowhere Less Now piece, I was on the whole very disappointed. Much of the work in the exhibition seemed a bit of a cliché of contemporary art, featuring assemblages and rather ill made objects and images. In general I felt given the context of the exhibition, there was a significant lack of technology and of direct reference to the digital world. It seemed most artists had gone down a very handmade, analogue route perhaps due to budgets, resources and skills. The only technology used in abundance was recorded sound, with a huge number of pieces featuring headphones but nothing really captured my attention and the quantity of headphones put me off exploring them all.
It seems I was not alone in my general disappointment of the show, with similar comments from friends and peers and some highly negative critics reviews, including this harsh statement featured in the Guardian ‘This art show for the digital age is a catastrophic mix of the harebrained and the talentless – and it heralds disaster for London’s artistic ambitions’ Jonathan Jones
Ursula Mayer's installation exploring identity, including 2 films and objects of curiosity.