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Review: Psycho Buildings, Hayward Gallery

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 103 months ago
Review: Psycho Buildings, Hayward Gallery
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Sitting in a jerry-rigged boat, floating in a flooded sculpture park atop the Hayward as the sun bustles through the clouds and lights up the London Eye, the building's Brutalist architecture almost melts away and resolves itself into a dystopian reverie, one not entirely unpleasant: the capital has been lost, and the temples of culture abandoned to the damp elements. It's a daydream easy to believe in, until the wetsuit-wearing gallery aid comes and guides us gently back to the dock and its concordant reality.

The incongruous body of water is Austrian art collective Gelitin's contribution to the Hayward's summer show, Psycho Buildings, in which ten artists have re-imagined the gallery's irregular spaces into temporary structures and unfamiliar habitats.

Judging by the queue, the lake – titled Normally, proceeding and unrestricted with without title (sic) – is of the most interest, and it's not the only piece to use the Hayward's outside spaces. Tobias Putrih’s Venetian, Atmospheric, a fully-functioning cinema built from plywood, shows films about artist-led architectural projects in a comforting auditorium. Nearby, Tomas Saraceno has made an eye-catching contribution to the Hayward’s profile with a large inflated dome, reminiscent of Rem Koolhaas’ 2006 Serpentine pavilion, that visitors can clamber atop as well as step inside. Health and safety laws currently restrict Hayward staff to the upper deck, where they crawl clumsily around: the feeling is said to be "like floating on a cloud", but for an observer below the scrabbling limbs make the figure resemble an overturned Gregor Samsa.

The violence implied by the exhibition’s title, derived from a photographic book by Martin Kippenberger, has elsewhere found currency. Cuban artists Los Carpinteros' Frozen Study Of A Disaster captures the split-second aftermath of an unspecified impact on a small flat: pieces of household debris cascade through the air amongst chunks of masonry and household appliances. It’s a fantastically arrested moment in time, matched for its visceral nature by Mike Nelson’s To The Memory Of HP Lovecraft, 1999 - a room whose false walls have been attacked by the axe-wielding artist, invoking climatic scenes from The Shining, and the exhibition's most overtly psychotic moment.

A more soothing experience can be found in the first room, where Ernesto Neto's dreamlike Life Fog Frog... Fog Frog is a soft nylon enclosure in which spice-filled sacs hang from the roof like the pods of insects waiting to hatch. Similarly, Michael Beutler's colourful paper and mesh maze delights in subverting the Hayward's cold space, and the abandonment of the tools in which the structure was made lends it a haphazard, rag-and-bone feel. Korean Do Ho Suh is afforded two rooms, and he offers wildly different pieces with similar themes. Fallen Star 1/5 is a fascinatingly detailed reconstruction of the house where he first lived in the United States, into which a scale model of his former Korean residence has crashed, like a meteor from outer space. In the room directly above, his Staircase - V evokes a liminal sense of displacement in a new environment, the suspended polyester staircase (a construct of his New York landlord's apartment) seemingly ready to vanish at a moment's notice.

Add in Atelier Bow-Wow's Life Tunnel, which resembles a laundry chute designed by Libeskind, and Rachel Whiteread’s haunting collection of dolls' houses, and it's clear the Hayward has come up with a stellar exhibition for its fortieth birthday. While the theme itself never quite matches the curator's ambition, seeing such a varied range of ideas in such a small space has its own merit. A must-see for the summer, and one that this Londonista will certainly visit again, if just to catch a rare view of the South Bank from atop a cloud.

Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture, at the Hayward Gallery, until August 25th. Click here for ticket information.

Photo courtesy of Tanja Manners

Last Updated 02 June 2008