On Friday I went the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank to see Walking in my Mind, a collection of artists attempting to create physical manifestations of the workings of the mind, so that as the exhibition is exactly what it says in the title, you literally walk into what they see, dream or feel.
Thomas Hirschhorn has created a cave that you can walk into and explore. It is perhaps the most interesting of all the installations in terms of the experience you gain from walking through tunnels, up and down slopes and around corners, discovering new marvels. Drawing his influence from the Lascaux caves in France, which I remember visiting when I was little, it is littered with drinks cans, foiled human figures, and pages torn from political and philosophy books, were taped the wall. Hirschhorn mixes the primitive with the intellectual mind – illustrating our basic desires and capability of playing God.
With The Creation Myth, Jason Rhodes does play God, in recreating the brain workings and bodily functions of an artist. It is the most visually eye-catching of all the works. It reminded me of the bubble works at Alton Towers or a mad scientist’s laboratory - a more colourful lab belonging to Frankenstein. Tubes connect the brain to the stomach; a large pink cushion, and there is what looks like a large HMV gramophone that erratically pumps out smoke rings into the room, described in the guide as an anus. Of course I couldn’t help but think that Rhodes was making a statement about artists and satirising his own profession – how much of it might as well have come from their arse…? Yet it is a feast for the eyes, you could spend hours wandering around the 'equipment' and contemplating each function.
Upstairs is Yoyoi Kusama, the artist whose work has been featured most in publicity features about the exhibition. She claimed to see polka dots as a child. Her mother sent her to a psychiatrist, but it did nothing; these polka dot visions stayed with her the rest of her life, and they are what have branded her work and given her an international reputation. The giant inflated misshapen red balls with white polka dots reminded me of toadstools, especially outside on the green terrace. It could easily have been a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, especially with the children running around, whilst 'Hi Ho, Hi Ho it's off to work we go' crept into my mind.
Chihuru Shiota, another Japanese artist whose fairy tale scene is like walking through a forest of densely weaved cobwebs, was reminiscent of Ugo Rondinone’s exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery ‘zero built a nest in my navel’ in 2006. Rondinone also focuses on the inner world of the artist, creating sensory installations.
Back downstairs to Pipilotti Rist’s ‘Sleeping Room’, and the last room in the exhibition. In the pitch black, it houses a round couch and two large screens on to which protectors dance images of a penis and a breast, feet and ears. To the sounds of a woman speaking and the quiet sniggering of prudish viewers, it reveals our sexual desires. It was a little disconcerting to be confronted so graphically, yet on the other hand refreshing for a national gallery to display such images. I came away from this last room feeling a little dumbfounded by the mix of artists and installations as I walked through the curtain from the dark into the light. I can't make up my mind if I think the exhibition holds its own on artistic merit, but what it does offer brilliantly is an illuminating experience – so go, walk through their minds.