♥Love Art♥? Fated & Fabled Favourites from February
Team Lab: Transcending Boundaries
The Transcending Boundaries exhibition by teamLab was truly captivating. Featuring three rooms of installations and interactive art work, you were immersed into an enchanted space as you left the outside world and entered each spectacular room. This exhibition explored the role of digital technology in exceeding and breaking down the physical and conceptual boundaries that exist between each piece of art.
This was particularly seen in the first room; as you entered, you were surrounded by six separate pieces of work which seemed to merge as one and create a new world. The first thing you saw as you entered was a wall full of butterflies that moved and flew around the room and the floor, allowing you to follow them as you walked around the space. The room itself was dark, the walls and floor being black, and with no overhead lights, the only way the room was lit was through the breath-taking colour from the luminescent butterflies and flowers covering the space. The butterflies flew in and out of the other art pieces, flowing freely and interacting with each other, spreading their magic to all. The usual feeling of being a spectator in a gallery wasn’t apparent here. The interactive element of this exhibition ensured that you felt truly part of it, situated directly within each art piece, becoming part of the story. The back wall of the room featured the art piece Universe of Water Particles, where a giant, virtual, electric blue waterfall extended down the wall and continued to flow onto the very floor you were walking on. This piece engages with the concept of ultra-subjective space and references the non-perspectival portrayal of space in premodern Japanese art.
In order to get from one room to the next, you had to walk through a series of curtains that broke up a pitch-black corridor. This intriguing sense of unknown made entering the next room all the more magical. The second room held one piece of art named Dark Waves. Across one whole wall was a virtual art piece showing powerful waves in the ocean, simulating their movement based on the behaviour of hundreds of thousands of water particles. It beautifully conveyed water as a living entity and immersed the viewer deeply within it. On the opposite wall was a bench for you, the viewer, to sit and watch the piece, which I found to be extremely hypnotic as I watched their slow and graceful rise before crashing and frothing in their fall. The closer and longer you watch the movement of the waves, you began to see the myriad of shapes created with subtle variations of blue and green submerging as one in the image. As you became further captivated, you began to realise just how very peaceful and tranquil the continuous flow of the water was even though at first glance, the waves seemed large and rough. This piece was beautifully effective in making a central connection between the viewer and nature.
When entering the final room, you were given a white scarf to wear. At first glance, the room was just a darkened space, however when you walked further in, the space was utterly transformed by your presence. Your movement activated projectors on the ceiling and the meaning behind the white scarf you were wearing became apparent. Bright coloured flowers began to bloom on you, butterflies and splashes of colour began to move around you, allowing your own body to become the canvas for the art piece. In direct response to your movement, the flowers grew, decayed and scattered, continuously changing and moving onto the next person. With everything else in the room being black, including every part of you other than the white scarf, you became completely and utterly focused on the beautiful creation wrapping itself around you.
This exhibition took gallery visits to an enthralling new dimension, captivating and enchanting the viewer in the artists’ own world. Toshiyuki Inoko, the collective’s founder, said, “We are honored to share some of our most recently created artworks and hope the universality of their themes—creativity, play, exploration, immersion, life, and fluidity—will seep into the broader conscience.”
This exhibition by Anselm Kiefer featured new, large-scale installations, sculptures and paintings. Titled Walhalla, the exhibition was inspired by the mythical place in Norse Mythology, a paradise for those slain in battle as well as to the Walhalla neo-classical monument, built to honour heroic figures in German History. Kiefer is known for weaving themes of history, politics and landscape into his work, however even if you know nothing about Kiefer as an artist or his inspirations beforehand, these themes stood out boldly and were made very apparent from the moment you entered the exhibition.
The first thing you saw upon entry was a long, gloomy, dimly lit corridor, lined either side with rows of fold up steel beds. The beds looked old and haunted and draped with dark grey crumpled lead sheets and covers, you began to fear for whomever it was that each bed belonged to. The moment you began walking down the corridor, a sense of eeriness and uncomfortableness set in. It was very clear that this area related to war; I was given the impression that the beds belonged to those injured during battle, possibly depicting a war hospital. I found it hard to walk slowly through the corridor or look at the beds for too long as the feeling of intrusion and discomfort became apparent. At the end of the central corridor space was a black and white photograph mounted on lead, of a figure walking away into an unwelcoming, wintery landscape. Evenly down the walls of the corridor was the entrance to another room, meaning there was no escape from navigating this dark and sombre area to continue onwards.
One of the rooms that particularly caught my attention was formed of one installation, where an overly large bed was placed in the centre of the room, with two enormous, grey wings extending out of each side. In the middle of the bed was a large boulder. This piece really created a sense of sadness to me. I felt as though the wings represented freedom and power however the boulder was crushing and holding whomever the bed belonged to there in that space. The piece created a sense of claustrophobia and confinement, feelings which must inevitably come with being a soldier at war.
Another room catching my attention was very large and open in comparison to the corridor and many of the other rooms. The walls were white and there was room to walk more freely. Although there was a sense of detachment to the art pieces that wasn’t apparent in the other rooms, it gave you the opportunity to really look at the art and the techniques used by Kiefer. Mounted on walls were huge paintings, depicting towers and buildings in mid-destruction due to bombings, as well as isolated landscapes being destroyed. Kiefer uses a range of media within these pieces – oil, acrylic, shellac, emulsion and clay, all emphasising the space of painting as a threshold into a mythic and imaginative realm. The use of mixed media to create texture within these pieces was extremely striking; as you stood to admire the pieces, I got the urge to touch and feel the peeling paint. These layers of paint and clay encouraged the idea of the depth of destruction these buildings and landscapes have endured. The backgrounds of the pieces were dark and depicted clouds of smoke in deep black or blue, whilst the foreground was brighter, with loosely mixed paint and splashes of colour highlighting the fire and explosive destruction.
This exhibition encouraged you to use your imagination and to immerse yourself into history. Constantly changing room by room, you were never bored or knew what to expect next. Large scale paintings captivated immensely, whilst installations depicting old, worn clothes, film reels, staircases leading nowhere we knew of and rooms full of boxes created the feeling of disturbance and invasion, forcing you to use your imagination to create your own story and characters within each piece.
Alicja Kwade: Medium Median
Medium Median is Alicja Kwade’s first project for a major UK gallery. She creates sculptures and installations using objects such as lamps, mirrors and clocks to contemplate the metaphysics of matter, light and time, connecting you to a world beyond our own.
At the back of the room was a large screen, depicting an asteroid rarely visible to the human eye, captured through radar astrometry. This in itself was a remarkable thing to watch, slowly revolving, creating a strange and indescribable feeling, watching something you know is there but will never see. In front of this, a large, rotating installation had been set up, with twenty-four mobile phones hanging from rotating hangers attached to the ceiling. The use of the phones here had been beautifully re-imagined as a modern and unique way to explore and discuss the meaning of the universe and the stars, a conversation that has continued for many years. Via satellite, each phone was lit up with stars, bringing us images of the universe. The screens were directly connecting us to the universe, depicting the current locations of stars, becoming a window to the milky way and positioning the viewer right in the center. The stars shown on the phones were billions of years old and no longer exist, making the viewer think deeply about our place in the universe and the importance of our own existence. In the background to this magnificent installation, passages from the book of Genesis were read out.
Surrounding the installation, Kwade had placed large bronze casts, emphasising some of the unknown quantities in the universe. At first glance the modernist sculptures were actually quite scary, suggesting alien like creatures and unknown forms. Large and majestic, the sculptures stood over the installations as protectors of the stars. The symmetrical aspect to these sculptures reminded me of the remarkable and indescribable way that nature can form shapes. Furthermore, these strong sculptures reminded just how small humanity is in the grand and magnificent schemes of the universe.
This exhibition really served to raise my awareness as to our planet’s place in this solar system, both part of a larger meaning and being that any of us know. Combining new technologies with long-standing knowledge, Kwade successfully transports you into the magnificent space of our universe, making you question your own existence and that of our world and its importance in comparison to the grander schemes of things.
Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World
Eleven unique and thought provoking installations created by some of the most innovative designers and architects we have today made up the Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World exhibition. The installations explored a variety of urgent issues related to the times we live in, such as networked sexuality, sentient robots, slow fashion and settled nomads. From the moment you entered the exhibition, it had your full attention, with each installation being so utterly different to the last.
An installation that immediately captured my attention due to its large layout was The Pan-European Living Room. Created by OMA/AMO, this installation spoke on the UK’s decision in 2016 to leave the European Union, by making a statement in support of Europe. The room was designed with pieces from each of the 28 member states and argued that the average living room in Europe is a product of collaborative spirit. It proposed that our common idea of domestic interiors and the way we design our homes, has been shaped by European cooperation. On the back wall of this installation was a large, very colourful vertical blind. At first glance it looked like an artistic statement, however this blind was created in the 1950’s, when the EU was first being developed and required all parts to be present and working together in unison in order to function. Behind this blind was an image that particularly stood out to me as it didn’t quite seem to fit with the modern, colourful and inviting room. The black and white image depicting military men standing in the foreground of a landscape was actually an image of Rotterdam after heavy bombing during World War II and it was was placed there with great purpose as a reminder of Europe’s disunited past. To me, this installation was extremely compelling and informative, furthering my awareness of Europe’s position not only in a political way but in a personal way, especially considering the products we each have in our own homes.
In the center of a large glass box, situated next to the domestic living room installation, stood a giant white machine created by Madeline Gannon. I have to admit that when I first saw this machine, I was a little uninterested. It looked industrial and was stood on its own with nothing else to capture my interest around it. It wasn’t until I walked past and it extended towards the glass, rotating its neck and following me along the walkway, that it really made me pay attention.
With its mechanical noises and sharp movements and following my every step, it made me feel quite uncomfortable and on edge! The robot used sensors embedded in the ceiling to see everyone around it simultaneously. As you moved, it would follow you around, however if you stood still for too long, it would lose interest and find someone else to investigate. I felt as though this machine was really watching me, rather than simply just sensing my movements. However, this futuristic robot’s purpose was to encourage us to overcome our anxiety around machines by establishing a bond between human and machine. It is a common social fear that robots are taking work from humans and The World Economic Forum predicts that robots will take five million jobs over the next five years. Though this may be true, instead of encouraging these fears, Gannon would rather promote robots as a companion species. She re-programmed this robot, usually used on a production line, to mimic people in order to seem sensitive, relatable and to interact with us.
This exhibition was formed of artworks by eighteen colourist artists who have come together to celebrate and explore the variety of ways to see the colour red. From the moment of entry, you were surrounded by a beautiful array of pieces, showcasing the sheer volume in shades of red that exist, with each one exploring red and its symbolism differently.
The colour red has many traditional connotations, including Danger, Warmth, Passion, Love, Sexuality, Anger, Joy, Socialism, Communism, Republicanism, Happiness, Good Fortune and these are all themes explored in this exhibition.
A piece of work that particularly caught my eye was that of Julie Caves. Using the colour red as the background to her piece allowed the other shades of blue used to stand out and also seem much colder than they would alone, whilst the use of quick brush strokes really popped out to me.
Julie Caves’ paintings come from her interest in surface, colour, ambiguity, oppositions and the act of seeing. I think these themes are made very clear in this painting, with the textures from the rough brush strokes and the prints created, suggesting emotion and necessity to me. The orange and pink tones overlapping the strong red background made the colour feel less harsh and invasive and ultimately more personal and imperfect.
Another piece catching my eye was by Terry Beard and titled Red Lines. His work is mainly abstract, dealing with colour and their relationships, ultimately being left open to the individual’s interpretation. This piece was very intriguing to me, with the uneven tone of the red in the background quite unnerving and suggesting an alertness through its brush strokes and change in tone. The use of black lines over the red made the colour all the more harsh, enhancing the alert, assertive feeling you get when looking at this piece. In comparison, I felt the blue paint, although drawn in lines, were much less uniform, featuring splashes and smudges, creating a slightly more calming effect on the viewer. The light, uplifting blue was bought to the foreground and looked almost as though it was coming off the canvas towards you. I got a sense of reassurance from this colour,, possibly suggesting the red as a representation of the past, with the blue being the future.
So you say you want a revolution?
Whilst queuing for this exhibition, you were given a small box plugged into a pair of headphones and I was immediately excited for an exciting and interactive experience. As you put the headphones on, you were taken back in time, listening to music from the 60’s. This reminded me just how important music was to people at this time and how it really helped drive the revolution that this exhibition was exploring. Writing on the walls of the exhibition claimed that music was the most vital form of communication at this time, allowing people a mode of expression to speak about topics that were truly important to them.
The 60s saw some of the greatest, most prominent musicians and performances of our time and being given the opportunity to both listen to them, as well as look at art pieces and read about them, ensured that this exhibition was extremely valuable as a learning experience.
Before entering the main exhibition space, there was a wall dedicated to record covers, posters and slogans which were highly prominent in late 1960s life. This exhibition further explored the era-defining significance and impact of the 60’s on life today. As you walked around the space, you began to realise just how huge this exhibition really was. One key thing that stood out to me when entering the exhibition, was colour. Everywhere I looked were bright colours, intricate shapes and bold statements. To my surprise, the headset I was listening to not only played music from the era but also allowed you to listen to news reports and important speakers that helped shape the fundamental shift in the mindset of the western world during this time.
Tarot cards, books, iconic images and newspaper articles filled the left-hand side of the first room, whilst on the other side, celebrity culture took the reins. There were images of the Beatles, iconic objects such as glasses worn by John Lennon, record covers from the likes of The Rolling Stones and musicians’ notebooks lining glass cases, whilst large, psychedelic posters and pieces of art covered the walls.
The next room featured the era’s iconic fashion items. Mannequins with disco balls as heads wore clothes from the likes of Biba, Hung on you and Mr Fish were lined up, whilst televisions played hair & makeup tutorials as images of Twiggy graced the walls. Facts about second wave feminism, women uniting and gay liberation were all incorporated into this part of the exhibition, making you realise the importance of this era and the link between all these elements and the ‘revolution’. Slogans such as ‘The Revolution has taken place within the mind of the young’ covered the wall whilst other areas commented on police brutality and students being so angry that they wanted to over throw the government.
Furthermore, this exhibition also commented on the successes of the era in ways other than the revolution. Interior design and architecture were celebrated, showcasing iconic objects such as the globe chair as well as an area dedicated to space travel and astronauts in the 70s. Rooms full of computers publicised the rise in technology as well as there being a large comment on consumerism and the rise in advertisements.
The last room featured an enormous, cinema style screen playing films from festivals, harking back to the significant rise of music festivals in this era, creating a place where people could express their true selves and promote the lives they intended on living.
As well as being hugely informative and reminding the viewer of the significance of the late 1960’s, this exhibition was highly entertaining. For such a huge exhibition, it was impossible to get bored. New information and magnificent artifacts caught your eye at every turn, exciting me and encouraging me to spend as much time there as possible. Looking at the past in such a positive light was very uplifting and it was quite amazing to see just how much an influence it has in modern day life.
WORDS // CHARLOTTE HARNEY