diamond geezer

 Friday, June 15, 2012

Hayward Gallery

(12 June - 5 August 2012)

As you hand over your eight quid, you do wonder if somebody is having a laugh. An entire exhibition full of art that isn't actually there - it could be the Emperor's New Clothes writ large. But within a few minutes of entering the ground floor of the Hayward Gallery, you might find utter artistic nothingness makes you smile.


And that's not all. A framed police notice relates, dead-pan, the theft of an invisible sculpture from the boot of the artist's car. A fresh battery powers 130 KHz carrier waves your body can't see. A photograph of whiteness is blown up and framed. Andy Warhol once stood on a plinth and claimed the aura of his celebrity remained - that's here. One room has been left empty apart from two humidifiers in the corner as a recreation of The Air Conditioning Show, a New York exhibition from 1972. A second room appears much the same, except the machines are pumping out water vapour taken from the bodies of Brazilian murder victims washed before autopsy. It plays with your expectations, the Hayward's latest show, or maybe the artists are playing instead.


Who'd ever have guessed Yoko Ono was capable of that? You'll likely need good eyesight to enjoy the works at their best, as often the entire raison d'ĂȘtre of the works is in their description, not their execution. The text stencilled on the walls is deliberately faint, in grey rather than black, although not as faint as some of the paintings drawn in invisible ink and now entirely unseeable. The exhibition is accompanied by a thick and comprehensive guide, kicking off with a fine descriptive essay, then listing details of each artist and their masterwork. It's usually a fiver but they're currently on sale for two quid, which is a ridiculously good bargain both as exposition and as a souvenir of your visit.


After this, in the seemingly empty space by the exit, the entire area is given over to Jeppe Hein's Invisible Labyrinth. You don what look like space age headphones, but are actually detectors which vibrate if you attempt to walk through an invisible electronic barrier. Your challenge is to attempt to walk from one side of the gallery to the other without breaking the walls, changing direction every time your head judders. There's a different maze to solve each day, with Thursday's Pacman-inspired labyrinth the most complicated, and the weekend's two designs (understandably) the most straight-forward. It's great fun to join in, but possibly almost as enjoyable to stand on the adjacent ramp and watch a tableau of shuffling humanity playing by unseen rules.


If you're the serious type, easily angered by trifling stupidity, don't come. But if you're the sort who enjoys April Fools gags, original ideas and twisted creativity, then Invisible should stimulate and entertain.

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