ARTIQ Reviews | Hayward Gallery: Space Shifters

Hayward Gallery is my contemporary safe space. A medievalist by training, I find contemporary installation art comforting – it’s the gothic architecture of another world – and Space Shifters does not disappoint, offering endless nods of otherworldliness.

Although it’s tough to get going, as upon entering you are offered a seat on the floor, I am delighted by the sight of couples immediately immersed in the exhibition as they kick back and stare up at the slowly rotating Jeppe Hein’s Illusion V (2018). I have to caveat this relaxation with an element of reality – the exhibition really isn’t good for someone prone to migraines.

That aside, following your snooze or indeed, deep contemplative thought, or further to that, a quick selfie from your horizontal position – you move through Mangrané’s steel curtains and into a genuinely perception altering maze by Alicja Kwade. Every piece in the room seems all at once curated perfectly, but somehow wrong. Hidden secrets and close shaves with mirrors, walls and steel bars leave you a little scared of what’s to come. The execution of her design must be mentioned. It’s incredible to behold, particularly the exacting position of two stones on the far side of the maze which seems impossibly accurate.

Repeating motifs throughout the entirety of the curation serve to keep you grounded. It becomes apparent that Josiah McElheny’s wood and mirror pieces are there to provide some visual reassurance. They are easier to get to grips with and almost hark back to old school fun fairs – the mirrors that would split your body, make you too thin, too short or stretch your limbs. It is hard to take pictures as you eventually disappear off the edges, but it’s fun to try.

Next to view is Narcissus Garden, first seen in 1966 at the Venice Biennale, the work has stood the test of time and it was a real joy to finally meet my maker. Unfortunately the irony was lost on some. They are hard to view due to the inordinate number of spectators practising their posing from varied heights. I get it, it works and the title is good.

Continuing upstairs (I’m slightly rushing to get to ‘the good bit’ – 20:50 by Richard Wilson) we are caught out by the trickery of Monika Sosnowska’s Handrail. Something beautiful, and as above, comforting about Hayward and contemporary installation work is the ability to touch and interact. Sosnowska delivers with this panache and effortless style, a twirling, whirling architectural intervention that does truly surprise.

Before you reach Richard Wilson’s masterpiece, the overwhelmingly beautiful Sky Mirror, Blue by Anish Kapoor demands attention. Wandering through the exhibition with a physicist was intriguing – so many of the works inspire a kind of ‘out of space’ zeitgeist. Kapoor suggests his piece finds the viewer looking through and beyond the physical artwork ‘a sort of metaphysical object’ and even with the dry, gloom filled sky above it, you are forced to question what it is you are contemplating. Sky-filled sculpture? Yourself? Space certainly shifted.

I get to 20:50 and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Toxicity fills your nose and you are stripped of your belongings (stored safely I assure you). Walking in on your own, as the guides instruct, it really is quite an overwhelming experience. Very rarely in the centre of London do you find quiet, reflective space. I felt not under attack by shifting light or changing perceptions but dramatically calm. It is all at once infinite and definite – I think the ‘space shifting’ was intended to be in the mind, rather than in plain sight. Truly worth waiting for in a varied and intelligently curated exhibition.

Review by Tazie Taysom, Lead Art Consultant, ARTIQ

Space Shifters
Hayward Gallery