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Walking in My Mind


Kusama, Yayoi Dots Obsession, 2004

Mixed installation

© Yayoi Kusama 2009

Photo: Yayoi Kusama Studio

Hayward Gallery

23 June – 6 September 09







A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Presumably, to some extent, we are always looking into an artist’s mind when we are viewing his/her work. However, we are not always walking in an artist’s mind, as we sometimes are in this installation based exhibition.  Although the title of this show suggests a possible lack of new ideas, in practice, it is actually a much more intriguing experience viewing this exhibition than words suggest.

Ten ‘up and coming’ artists from several countries, ranging in age from twenty-something to eighty, participate in this ambitious, sometimes satisfying concept which parcels off the Hayward’s varying spaces according to the spatial requirements and individual themes of each artwork. The gallery’s opening room is a beginning of sorts in that the two artists featured, Japanese Pop artist Yoshitomo Nara and Turner-prize winner Keith Tyson, focus on their childhoods through their work, seemingly via varying explorations of their latent mother ties. Nara’s piece recreates (with creative design team graf) ‘a little hut atop a hill that he remembers from his childhood’, complete with toys, arts and crafts items, memorabilia such as greeting cards and photos, posters of pop stars on the walls and, the voice of Joey Ramone and other rock idols playing as we peer through the windows of this bygone world to view the work. Nara’s drawings of balloon headed children, which are now considered as iconic in Japan, also feature in this memory landscape. There is a distinct lack of masculine items in this artwork, which may indicate strong maternal ties. Much of the work in this exhibition has that, ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ feel which is apt as various versions of many of these pieces have been (re)created before, for other exhibitions, in other galleries.




YNG (Nara, Yoshitomo + graf) My Drawing Room (bedroom included) 2008

mixed media

Photo by Keizo Kioku


Courtesy: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo/Tomio Koyama Gallery,Tokyo
However, prize winner Tyson’s work has pride of place in this room, commanding three entire high-ceilinged walls with his colourful drawings which are meant to be, ‘a composite image of a brain, set within a landscape.’ A white-washed, boyish figure presses his face against a tangled map on the wall while feminine figures, reminiscent of the flat, hyper-groomed creatures common to adverts stare sullenly at us above him.
Without giving a blow by blow description of the exhibition, I will just say here that not all of the pieces being displayed are grouped in this way. In fact, this is the first and only instance of a grouping in the entire exhibition! Apart from these two inter-connected pieces, each work or groups of work, according to which is representing an artist, is shown in its own space.

The labyrinthine that is the mind is represented here in a literal sense by Thomas Hirschhorn’s Cavemanman, which I’m assuming was created/recreated for this exhibition.  However, here is a photo of another version of this piece which was shown in 2002 in Minneapolis; yet another was shown in New York at a later date.  Each of these pieces would have been constructed from miles of packing tape, brown paper, photo-copies and aluminium foil, among other everyday components.



Hirschhorn, Thomas Cavemanman, 2002 Minneapolis installation

‘Heart of Darkness’, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2006

Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York / Private Collection


What self-respecting exhibition about the human mind would neglect to mention the sex-obsessed brain of the heterosexual male? Which reminds me, I’m not a prude, but I actually can’t remember ever seeing a conceptual exhibition which didn’t feature pornography and/or sexual body parts, apart from say, Antony Gormley’s Blind Light, which had casts of his own naked body, sans hairy detail. Enter the late Jason Rhodes’ seedy, messy room sized installation The Creation Myth (1998) in which all of the various portions of the artist’s brain are shrunken down to several labelled buckets strewn round the room, flanked by columns covered with hard core porn images. A toy railroad track with a train going round and round on it, topped by a plush snake completes this stereotypical scenario.



Rhoades, Jason The Creation Myth, 1998


Dimension variable

Installation view at Hauser & Wirth Zürich Courtesy Friedrich Christian Flick Collection

Photo credit: A. Burger


From the images provided, in my opinion, one of the most striking represents Chiharu Shiota’s inside/outside, 2008. As an enthusiast of fairytale and myth, the implications of four wedding dresses, trapped inside a black web which takes up an entire room in the upper level of the gallery is a very striking and endlessly implicative one. Chiharu herself said the piece was created by herself and three other people working with her round the clock for one week. Perhaps the idea of using thread to create a web like structure is not a new one, but in this case, her use of that technique is still intriguing.



Shiota, Chiharu inside / outside, 2008

wedding dress / black thread

place: solo show at Goff + Rosenthal, Berlin

photo:  Goff + Rosenthal

copyright: VG Bild -Kunst, Bonn


One of the most interesting rooms in this exhibition contains the artwork of Mark Manders, whom we managed to steal a few words with. Manders told us he plans his work ahead of time, but then, there are times when he doesn’t...Whatever the case may be Manders’ work is inexplicably engrossing and seems to offer a more endless array of meanings the longer one considers it. Unlike Mark Dion’s wolf encrusted piece in Radical Nature at the Barbican Gallery, Mander’s work, which is oddly affecting as opposed to effected, is down to his own skill as an artist and sculptor rather than a taxidermist.




Manders, Mark Fox/Mouse/Belt, 1992

Painted bronze, belt

Courtesy Zeno X

© The Artist, 2009


Mander’s work has presence, perhaps more than that of any other artist in this exhibition, save the impossible to ignore work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who at eighty is the senior creative represented. Kusama uses her distinctive dotted art as a way of dealing with her affliction, as it is one which causes her to see endless spots before her eyes. Rather than allow this unusual malady to drive her mad, she’s wisely incorporated it into her work. And I’ll admit that walking through her red and white polka-dotted room went a fair way toward making a landlubber like me decidedly sea-sick. Twenty odd trees along the Southbank outside of the gallery are similarly wrapped for an Alice in Wonderland feel as one approaches the exhibition.

The Hayward has a trajectory of putting on large scale, installation based exhibitions, having staged, over the past two summers, the aforementioned Antony Gormley exhibition, Blind Light (2007) and Psycho Buildings: Artists Take on Architecture (2008) both of which also well utilized the gallery’s unusual spaces which, seem to allow for the variances of individual worlds and ways of thinking.

After walking in their minds, do I feel I know these artists any better? I’d have to answer yes and no, which is how things should be in the endlessly ambiguous world of conceptual art.


Hayward Gallery – Southbank Centre



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