Tag Archives: Hayward gallery Southbank

Is a contemporary art sliding as fast as Holler’s slides?

And nope I do not attempt to suddenly switch from writing about the family and children to contemporary art topics although if I attend a few more of the contemporary art exhibitions in the near future one never knows…

And yes I have learnt the lesson by now namely it is by far easier to criticize than create and hence I do weight my words before they leave my mouth or keyboard rather but at the same token one needs to reserve a right to express its own opinion however harsh it may seems…

Carsten Holler’s ‘Decision’ exhibition at the Southbank Centre was our second trip to London in a week – I think we all missed London very much after being away on holiday for over five weeks! There is no other place like London – it has its own pros and cons but once you fall in love with its pros and get used to its cons it is hard to walk away from it all, its buzz and intellectual stimulation, its never ending choice of first class art, music and culture!

And so it was – the last day of the Holler’s exhibition – we had to queue for 40 minutes to get the tickets for!

The entrance to the exhibition was simply great! Holler called it ‘Decision Corridors’ which were simply dark, curvy corridors, surrounded by a complete darkness with only a tiny dots of lights scattered around. You totally depend on your sense of hearing and touch – trying to get a feel as to what is coming up next before you are being rushed by a sliding surface you are walking on. Lots of fun – we were all holding our hands together while travelling through the tunnel, laughing and literally forgetting about the outside world.

It was a brilliant introduction and it is a real shame that the exhibition itself has not lived up to its ‘delayed entrance’ expectation. After that there were simply a number of installations which had an ample of theory behind them but not much of a novelty or innovation factor. Nothing inspirational enough, nothing anyone of us felt moved by, except the ‘Two flying Machines’ which were flying devices designed to ‘stimulate flight, soaring high above the traffic of Waterloo Bridge’ totally exposed to the element. The only ‘problem’ was that the queue to get on was almost as long as the Waterloo Bridge itself and the age limit was 14 so we did not get an opportunity to try it on to a huge disappointment of my children of course.

There was the Flying Mushrooms installation, red and white fungi placed back together which supposed to give an impression of the mushrooms flying while pushing the installation bar, rather monotonous and uninspiring.

The same can be said about any other exhibits – a very flashy names and theory has been given to a rather bland and tired installations ie The Forests (two screens on the opposite ends being watched simultaneously), Two Roaming Beds (short footage shot at night in the middle of winter symbolizing entry into the dream world – luckily my dreams are much more interesting than this!) and the Pinocchio Effect (where by stimulating certain muscles we supposed to alter or rather make believe that we are altering the size of our nose – hardly worked for us).

And of course the Isomeric Slides where you were invited to exit the gallery in a rather unconventional way – place your leg inside some linen bag and ‘experience a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness’. Certainly the intention was there but other than that the children were rather disappointed that they only can have a one go (as were used to quite a number of goes at the water slides they just did throughout the summer holidays!) while me… had to keep my head down making sure it doesn’t hit the top of the slide which was rather low (too low). I can certainly say the experience of delight and madness was a long way off. I know it as I tend to experience both states quite often while spending time with my children – delighted while looking at their achievements or often simple smiles really and madness… well we all know these evenings where everything and everyone seem to be out of control and the line between madness and sanity is no longer visible…

If I were to give one advice to Carsten (not that he will ever listen to my advice in the first place ;-)) it would be to gather a small group of creative 5 to 10 year old and… let them play, let them experiment, let them explore their creativity! I can assure you they will come up with far more interesting and exciting installations than you have kindly did. Sorry if it sounds too harsh but all three of mine said the same ‘the long dark corridor was the best part of the exhibition mummy’.

And I would totally agree – the so called ‘Decision Corridors’ set up the expectations really high but there was nothing more to it all than a few old tatty concepts which did nothing to ones mind other than the usual glare.

I was not feeling stimulated by any of the exhibits by no means. If you walk into the room and look at the installation and all you can feel is a sense of confusion that is not what I would call a Good Art’. If you need to dig into your pocket and look for the explanatory leaflet given to you at the entry point then it is a sign that the exhibition failed in my opinion. The experience should be self-explanatory, you should be taken into a journey which artist created and designed for you, making you feel like you are his guest and he is a host taking you inside his artistic world.

The Good Art should be able to defend itself, should be able to speak for itself! If all I could think standing in front of an installation is ‘Where is the leaflet’ then obviously something is not right. I would love the Art to engage me to the point of forgetting for a moment about reality and taking me into a journey that I will remember long after I left the gallery.

The case with contemporary art is that it needs lots of space, many pages of explanation as to what it represents, what are its origins and why are we supposed to call it art and not simply what it truly is namely a Thing which is not a Thing purely because an Artist said so. I remember a recent visit to Serpentine gallery at the Hyde Park. I had no idea what the ‘artist’s’ name was, all I can recall were different size blocks made of concrete or stone hanging from the walls/ ceilings and.. pages and pages of ‘Information booklet’ you were given in order to ‘fully understand’ the ‘art’ or the stones rather (at least if they were talking stones things would be much more interesting…). And every time any of my children were trying to touch the stone they were told ‘please do not touch the artwork’. I would normally wholeheartedly agree but on this occasion I could not help but thinking that dropping some of this ‘stony artwork’ on the floor would most certainly benefit them…

It’s a bit like ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ type of thing – nobody has got enough courage to call things for what they really are. The Emperor is naked, Tracy Emin’s ‘Unmade Bed’ is just a messy bed and Carsten Holler’s ‘Isomeric Slides’ are simply children’s slides in the wrong place at the wrong time – it is time to grow up Carsten…

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