Yves Klein in the Void Room, 1961
Written by Lorna Barnshaw
Hayward Gallery’s current exhibition Invisible: Art about the Unseen, 1957–2012 on show until 5th August 2012, is full of the bizarre, the wonderful and the questionable. If you are curious enough to pay the £8 entry fee you will discover an exhibition which will no doubt cause you to question the meaning of art. Although the exhibition will not universally impress it is worth a visit, but be warned: leave your cynicism at the door and enter with an open mind.
Consisting of four rooms there is surprisingly more to look at than the title suggests, the art may be invisible but there is alway accompanying text, sketches or film. Curator Ralph Rugoff explains in an interview with the BBC’S Will Gompertz that it is the information behind the work that defines these invisible pieces as Art. It appears then that it is not a case of aesthetics but a case of thought, information and meaning.
Artists such as Andy Warhol, Jeppe Hein, Tom Freidman and Yves Klein are some of the many exhibitors. Features include a pedestal containing Andy Warhols’ aura, a plinth with a witches curse and the largest drawing in the world created by Lai Chih-Sheng in chalk. The exhibition has it all from the disgusting, the unusual, the mundane, the fascinating, the fun and most importantly the invisible.
Bethan Huws leaves you paranoid and suspicious of everyone, informing you of hired actors blending in as visitors … already paranoid you are left to enter a room heavily curtained with black velvet accompanied by the simple title “The Ghost of James Lee Byars”. Inside you are engulfed by complete and utter darkness making the visible invisible, fearful to step further into the unknown.
A particular favourite is Jeppe Heins’ Invisible Labyrinth. A headset and infrared sensors send a vibration to your head to signify a wall. It is fascinating watching visitors wander an empty space in zigzag patterns trying to find a way through but it is even more interesting having a go yourself. Despite not seeing a maze you are left both confused and embarrassed in an attempt to find your way out, the vibrations almost physically stop you as though there is real wall. It is simply excellent art and well worth the exhibition entry fee alone.
Jeppe Hein’s’ Invisible Labyrinth, Hayward Gallery, June 2012
One of the most controversial was Terressa Marolles’ piece, a room with two huge air conditioning units. Once inside you read the usual accompanying text, about halfway through you comprehend that you are standing in a room that is air conditioned with water used to wash dead bodies before autopsy in Mexico. You will no doubt leave slightly sickened by this thought and quite frankly unsure how to react.
Bill Stott: Invisible Art Gag of the Month. July 2012
Overall the exhibition does what it intends. Curator Ralph Rugoff said in a recent interview with the BBC’s Will Gompertz*:
“At a time when contemporary art is as much about what you can see as how it makes you question and reconsider, perhaps invisible art is just art without the visual, but art all the same?”
Curator Ralph Rugoff has been known for his unconventional imaginative exhibitions including Just Pathetic and Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture. People have always had a love-hate relationship with the Hayward Gallery especially regarding its cold stark design. This theme continues under the directorship of Rugoff with his unorthodox and visionary ideas. He doesn’t spoon feed the visitors, instead he puts faith in them to be unprejudiced with a willingness to think and imagine, to play along if you will. This however isn’t suited for all; for some art is about beauty and skill and this exhibition will certainly cause sparks to fly. That is the wonder of contemporary art.
It is worth seeing (or not as the case maybe), this unique and peculiar mixture of art. It might be worth mentioning that Usher himself stated that the exhibition is ‘totally dope’.