Updated: Feb 18
When you’re offered to look at yourself in the mirror, do it with fun at the Hayward Gallery, which has opened the exhibition “Space Shifters”, filled with luminous, reflective installations that were created by 20 artists over the last 50 years. Most of the times you may not be able to see yourself clearly, but aren’t we used to the manipulated perception of ourselves and the environment these days?
The first shiny artwork I set my eyes on is not even an object… It’s called “Non-Object (Door)” (2008), created by Anish Kapoor, the Turner prize-winning British-Indian artist. It’s a tall square stainless steel sculpture, distorting my image that is reflected on the neatly polished mirrored surface. Evidently, the artist is trying to subjectify the artwork by blurring the boundaries between me, the active viewer, and this so-called non-object. So I start the journey of self-reflection (and, frankly, narcissistic behaviour) in this space of crooked mirrors and illusion.
Now, that I’m given this limitless opportunity of self-admiration, I play with the dynamic image a little, then take a selfie… We all love a good selfie. But what’s next? Voila! The artwork is complete: as an individual I become part of the sculpture. The experience reminds me of A. Kapoor’s words: he once said that “the work doesn’t stop when the object is made. It’s half the work, the other half is watching it”. In this case I, the viewer, have completed the artwork with self-image and active participation.
Getting lost in space and being confused by the very own reflection is fairly easy when one walks into Alicja Kwade's "WeltenLinie" (2017), originally created for Venice Bienale 2017. Her large-scale installation is made of steel, double-sided mirrors and stones among other materials and occupies the entire room. I start circling around, it feels like the boundaries between illusion and reality have blurred. I want to step over the bar but what if I bump into a mirror...
Better not to move – nothing is quite what it seems in life. Sorry, I mean the space. The gallery space that’s shifting depending on my perspective. I look behind wondering if that man in a suit is really standing where I think he is. My mind bends and I step back a little just to rethink whether my perceived reality, including the obstacles, is just a deception imposed by my own mind.
Those who have missed looking at life through rose-tinted glasses, should head straight to the room where "Magic Mirror Pink #2” (2013-17) leans against the wall. Created by Brussels-based light artist Ann Veronica Janssens, the installation heavily depends on the light as it’s covered with dichroïc polyester film which changes colours as chameleon when viewed from different angles and distance. The radiant pink hues of the mirror are sooo sweet, it seems to be shattered though.
Indeed, it’s made of shattered glass. I guess this is where the magic comes from – the cracks flirting with the light. The dynamics of the colour and transparency of this minimalistic sculpture capture my imagination and thus the dazzling mirror becomes an interface for daydreaming.
"It's amusing to be on the other side and see the ordinary reality from a suprising perspective", I think to myself when walking into the artwork called "Untitled (Parabolic Lens)" (1971). This remarkable piece obviously requires scientific knowledge based on creativity.
The American artist, former NASA engineer Fred Eversley certainly doesn't lack technical expertise. His scientific competence has allowed him to produce visually alluring sculptures with such optical properties, which apparently make them so instagramable (a very important quality these days).
However, it's not Instagram F. Eversley desires to conquer. He, too, expects to disrupt the viewer’s sense of the space and make one revalue the perception of the surroundings. Well, I'm not planning to stand contemplating behind the lens for too long but I'm sure taking a decent Instagram photograph. Millennials. 🤷♀️
What do I take away from this exhibition? Many selfies... No, don't get me wrong, I'm not here only for the selfies, even though it might seem contrary. On a serious note, it's thrilling to see so many accomplished sculptors and installation artists under one roof. I won't be mistaken saying that "Space Shifters" is wide open to anyone interested in contemporary sculpture or simply looking to explore curious objects with their little ones, who, from what I've overheard, can express interesting, honest and fun insights (so listen carefully!).
Open until 6 Jan 2019
Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre
337-338 Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX, London, UK