Exhibitions in Manchester, and Liverpool.

12May09

Recently visited Manchester to see the last few days of Subversive Spaces at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Paul Morrison and Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci from the Royal Collection at Manchester City Art Gallery and also 4×4 at the Bluecoat in Liverpool.

Subversive Spaces (7/2/09-4/5/09) is a fantastic exhibition, which is now on tour to Compton Verney 13/6/09 – 6/9/09, and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts 29/9/09 – 13/12/09.

Fantastic in every sense of the word. I found the use of the gallery spaces at the Whitworth disorientating and unsettling and therefore, purely in design terms, we are already referencing Freud, who seems to hover over this exhibition like a phantasm.

It was particularly exciting to experience Kinderzimmer, which is only on show in Manchester and is still open until the end of May, an installation by Gregor Schneider, winner of the Golden Lion Award at the 2001 Venice Biennale.

The usually light and airy gallery at the Whitworth is completely altered. All light is now excluded from the large space and the viewer embarks on a journey through the space, completely alone, completely isolated. You are drawn back to innocence, this is what it must feel like to suddenly loose one of your senses, you find yourself swinging from bravery to panic, tentatively feeling your way through the black velvet treacle of darkness realising that you can just about make out light. a slit of light stumble slowly towards it, carefully ensuring that you have nothing in front of you. Space seems to alter. Is it a relefection of a light somewhere else. I felt consumed by self doubt, enveloped in a lack of confidence. It was a light, it was a door, what would be behind it? the door opened and a film noir shaft lit the space I had just traversed. My oasis in this black desert gave little to make me feel at ease and safe. Here was an empty bedroom. Not a bad place, not a good place. a place for frightened rabbits. I became self concious, was I being watched through the mirror, did the light switch work (no).  I felt lonely, deserted, empty. It was the sort of space you didn’t want to linger in. There must be more, it must be worth going back into the darkness to look for more, for something else?

Back in the darkness I felt my way along a wall and made out a faint glow. I edged towards it, nearer and nearer. The light of the previous cave-like space getting further behind me. A window. I look inside, into the room I have just been in, through the mirror, I am beyond the looking glass now, only I’m not. This is another room, it has a matress on the floor, I don’t remember that.

Round the next corner I find a street view, the world outside, an escape route. Only this place is also empty, devoid of human “being”.

Kinderzimmer made me feel incredibly isolated, desolate, alone, empty. It was a powerful experience. Although I knew I could ask for help if I needed it, I was torn between wanting to “get it”, wanting to “experience it”, but also not wishing to “need” assistance. I felt torn.

The whole exhibition is a brilliant exploration of Surrealism and Contemporary Art.

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