Contemporary art is a tricky one. On the one hand it is exciting and intelligent, challenging perceptions of what art can or can’t be limited to, but on the other hand, can often just be a case of the emperors new clothes. The exhibition The Invisible at the Hayward Gallery really tests the capability to go beyond basic intrinsic values of art and explore the possibilities of what does not quite meet the eye. The exhibition focuses solely on invisible art (yes i’m being serious). By this I mean 90% of the artwork within the exhibition you cannot actually see. Bearing this in mind, entering this exhibition you have to take the “challenging experience” with a pinch of salt.
Saying this, you have to take a very large of pinch of salt to not feel like you have been robbed upon entering. A student fee of £6, though not extortionate, does seem to be a rip off by the time you’ve left the minimalistic white wash walls of almost NOTHING at the Hayward gallery. Hey, I’m all for contemporary art, but when you walk into an exhibition called the invisible and the main feature is an empty room with two air conditioners blasting I begin to feel the artists are just seeing if I fall for their bullshit. The piece in question is the ubiquitous installation from Art & Language, a 1960’s collaborative comprising from the minds of the original artists of invisible art, Terry Atkinson and Michael Baldwin. Their piece apparently, and I quote, “disappears into the rhetoric surrounding it.” I don’t mean to be obtuse, but I just don’t get that. Perhaps what frightened me the most about this is that the piece was actually mimicked by another artist and placed at the end of the exhibition, but instead the piece by Galerie Peter Kilchmann contained two cooling systems filled with water that was used to wash the bodies of murder victims before an autopsy. By entering this room, I was effectively consuming the essence of dead people, or more specifically, murdered people. I had no choice in the matter either because i had to enter the room before you read the small print, but don’t worry; I was told that the water wasn’t harmful. Huge relief.
What I believe was actually the most painful part of the exhibition was the raw sense of egotism that clung to almost every artist’s piece, ranging from one artists entry consisting of an actor who walked around among us, pretending to view the art, but wait for it, THEY WERE THE ART (how cutting edge!), to Andy Warhols plinth that he stood on in a busy New York club 27 years ago, with an inscription by it reading “ANDY WARHOL, USA/ INVISIBLE SCULPTURE/ MIXED MEDIA 1985”, before leaving it there to leave an ‘aura of celebrity’. I find this incredibly arrogant no matter what it was trying to convey, and I can only imagine how much money the Hayward spent to ensure this MDF block was in their precious exhibition. And not too mention the fact Yoko Ono had several of her poems on display, I didn’t see the point in this, it wasn’t invisible art, it was just her self important musings, but perhaps these would be valid to another person, I just have a bit of a vendetta against Yoko Ono as a person.
There were some pieces which I found intriguing and intelligent, such as Jay Chungs “Nothing is more practical than Idealism”, a film that he wrote, produced and directed and took two years to complete, but with no film in the 35mm camera he shot the whole thing on. He didn’t tell the cast, he didn’t tell the crew, and the only piece of evidence that the film ever even took place is a single shot of the cast and crew. At the time of the exhibition being aired to the public, those involved with the project apparently were still completely unaware that their endeavours were never documented.
If I had known that there was this much money in invisible in art, perhaps I would have continued to do an Art Degree and produce A1 pieces of cartridge paper under the premise I had painted a masterpiece on it with water and made thousands. The tragedy of this is that I have incredibly talented friends who will probably never get their art exhibited somewhere like the Hayward, yet these artists on display will no doubt gain some notoriety for what is essentially nothing. I never mean to belittle an artist’s process, but when it comes to something like this, I won’t stand for mediocrity. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. However, walking through a blacked out room in terror (another artists stellar contribution) and trying to navigate my way through an invisible maze with only a vibration sent through my head to tell me I wasn’t walking the right way did mildly make up for what otherwise would have been a massive waste of money and virtually no cultural enrichment.
Thanks for nothing. (No pun intended).