Alternative Guide to the Universe – Hayward Gallery

So, imagine the letters of the alphabet given physical form as mechanical objects; attach each one to a customised skateboard (bear with me!) and suspend from the ceiling in a mass v-shaped flying attack formation. There you have one of the weirdest (and to be honest totally impressive) pieces in the latest Hayward Gallery exhibition celebrating a collection of artists who have interpreted reality a little (or a lot) differently. For the artists shown here there are no limits, either in terms of convention or possibility, and there is so much variety in both subject matter and types of art being displayed, ranging from mathematical paintings, to layered photographs to 3D architectural models and actual moving robots.

My favourites were Bodys Isek Kingelez whose Blue Peter-style reinterpretation of city buildings modelled in wood, card and other materials are incredibly imaginative and striking – definitely putting Tracey Island in the shade. Marcel Storr’s prints of ‘futuristic megacities’ includes unthinkably tall buildings seeming to combine gothic, art deco and Chinese influences, whilst A.G. Rizzoli re-imagined his friends and family as elaborate architectural designs. Also, noteworthy are the plaster-cast dummies, dressed in clothes and wigs, and then photographed using varied lighting techniques to make them look almost human, reinforcing how this exhibition plays with notions of reality and possibility.

There is some fairly pretentious and weird stuff too – one artist drawing the ‘essence’ of people with what looks like a child’s Spirograph kit, and there’s some very odd alien-related pieces which you can rush through. But even these don’t detract from an exhibition that is well worth seeing – just for the alphabetised skateboards. Although, if you go on a hot day, take a jumper it is definitely the coldest place in London!

The exhibition runs at the Hayward Gallery until 26 August and has discounted entry with National Art Pass.

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About Maryam Philpott

This blog takes a more discursive and in-depth approach to reviewing a range of interesting cultural activities in London, covering everything from theatre to exhibitions, films and heritage. I am part of the London theatre critic team for The Reviews Hub where I have professionally reviewed over 300 shows. It was set up in 2007 to review all forms of professional theatre nationwide including Fringe and West End. My background is in social and cultural history and I published a book entitled Air and Sea Power in World War One which examines the experience of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy. View all posts by Maryam Philpott

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