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Review: MIRRORCITY at Hayward Gallery

Tuesday 14 October 2014
Words Alice Bell

The subjects that MIRRORCITY explore – our digital age, the internet, virtual lives – all seem to be recurring themes (for instance the recent talk by Douglas Couplandand somewhat resonate with me. Maybe it’s because we’ve reached a tipping point in society; we’ve all got used to The Internet being ubiquitous in our lives and we are seeing the first generation of adults who have never known a world ‘pre-internet’.

The amount we share, present, watch and even stalk online is not questioned by many. The ‘press release’ element of our lives we willingly display on the internet and then the more background, somewhat disturbing rumble of information about our lives that is constantly being monitored, recorded, taken.

This is why an exhibition such as MIRRORCITY is so relevant and important right now, especially in London, where the digital age, capitalism and gentrification are constantly reshaping our landscape.

Mirrorcity at Hayward Gallery, London. Photo by Linda Nylind. 11/10/2014.‘Concrete Gown for Immaterial Flaws’ by Pil and Galia Kollectiv. Installation view, MIRRORCITY at Hayward Gallery 2014. Photo: Linda Nylind

The breadth of the media the artists work in highlights the subject matter of the show; from painting, sculpture, video to performance, each piece has an underlying sense of disquiet.

The exhibition was inspired by looking back at 1972’s Hayward Annual, which covered the most advanced art of the time around the idea of landscapes. 42 years later, the Hayward has produced an update on this, visiting over 100 artists’ studios in London to explore the common themes in the work being produced, namely their concerns of the virtual.

Do-Re-Me, 2014, by Nicola Conibere, featuring Helka Kaski & Neil Callaghan, © Nicola Conibere 2014 photo by Manuel VasonPractice’ by Nicola Conibere, 2012. Courtesy and © the artist, 2014. Photo: Manuel Vason

We still experience the world in and around our bodies, but we are constantly online in another world, leaving us in-between spaces. This is reflected in the layout of the exhibition, divided by curtains rather than walls to give you glimpses of the in-between, often used for impromptu performances by some of the artists. This, combined with the architecture of the Hayward highlights the exhibition’s non-linear, almost confusing form, which seems fitting as we are invited to ask ‘what is our current experience of reality?’.

FALLING STARS I‘Falling Stars I’ by Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq, 2013 © the artist. Photo: Damian Griffiths

MIRRORCITY: London Artists on Fiction and Reality opens today and runs until 4th January at Hayward Gallery. A series of talks, events and performances will take place between 13-16 November, details online.

Words: Sarah Ferrari
Featured Image: John Stezaker, Tabula Rasa XXXIX, 2014. Image courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.