Last Sunday I went to the Antony Gormley exhibition (Blind Light) at the Hayward Gallery.
If I knew Gormley was a famous sculptor, it didn't click until after I did some googling for him whilst trying to write this – as such, I went in with no real preapprehensions of what I was supposed to be looking at; only that someone had recommended it to me, and it looked kind of funky. In addition, when we got there we missed the table with the exhibition guides, so every artwork was just “as is”, without any pressure to think it meant anything in particular. As it happened, I had a bloody good time.
The first piece I saw I thought looked like a big space station – it was a huge blocky scuplture made out of iron plate welded together with square holes all over it, it had that sort of massiveness to it, and was balanced on a weird slant. I found out later that it was called Space Station.
Another highlight was the piece called Event Horizon – existing outside the gallery confines, the piece is made up of a number of bodycasts of Gormley set up on the London skyline for a reasonable area all around the gallery. The casts all face towards the gallery's viewing terraces, and looking at them gives you a real “oh wow, there's another one!” feel. Interestingly, the London Met Police have been inundated with phonecalls from concerned citizens, seeing these figures atop high buildings and fearing that they're about to jump.
The main “draw” piece for the exhibition (or at least, the one used in all the promo material) is called “Blindlight”. It's a large square room made of plate glass, and filled with a cold steam-like fog. The room's lit from above, so it's quite bright in there, but the fog's so thick it's mostly opaque. Reportedly it's like being inside a cloud, and from the outside it's quite intriguing to look at. You can make out movement inside – visibility's about 6 inches, and anything beyond that is just shadow and shape. Looking in from outside you make out dark silent wraiths which slip in and out of view, punctuated occasionally by a hand or face against the glass. And of course there's always some dickhead who decides to do a blowfish.
Upon entering the piece through the large rectangular opening it is suprising how quickly the atmosphere thickens to the point where you can't make out anything. K & I went in holding hands, and side by side I could see most of her face, but with arms extended all you could see was your own arm disappearing out into the fog. It was a bit like that time I went to that restaurant where you eat in the dark, except of course this was quite well lit, and if you got into proximity of people you could see them. Very strange. The anonymousness of it was fascinating too – you knew there were other people in there with you, but there was no guarantee as to who, because people were entering and leaving all the time. About 15 seconds after we'd walked in, there was an obvious sound of someone walking into one of the glass walls and swearing, and a weird vibe suddenly took over the room. The person who had hit the wall was embarrassed about doing something silly, but couldn't see us laughing at him. We didn't know who had done it, so we didn't know who we were laughing at, but also we could laugh freely because we knew he couldn't see us.
The exhibition's on until August 19th, so I thoroughly recommend going along if you have the opportunity. Not only was it fascinating and engaging, but I also felt like it was art that I could enjoy just for what it was, without any pretensions or required knowledge (such as the Bauhaus / Moholy-Nagy exhibition I went to at the Tate Modern last year).