26 July 2016 | 14 °C

Embrace The Spirit Of Utopia At Whitechapel Gallery

Embrace The Spirit Of Utopia At Whitechapel Gallery

Plenty of recent exhibitions have challenged our perception of what is art — both the Japanese Outsider Art and the Alternative Guide to the Universe exhibitions provided more food for thought on this ongoing debate.

The Whitechapel Gallery's latest exhibition follows this trend, with a wide spectrum of styles and media. The theme of the exhibition is to encourage artists to consider the future, and though they often depart from this loose theme, the results vary from futuristic greenhouses to a makeshift apothecary via a live pottery studio within the gallery.

Peter Liverside made us laugh with his list of proposals for future exhibitions at the gallery, ranging from the semi-serious to the downright abstract. This sense of pushing boundaries of logic and acceptability persists throughout the exhibition with understandably mixed results.

Ha Za Vu Zu, a group of Turkish musicians encourage group crying, even asking visitors to squirt lemon juice in their eyes so we can all cry together. We struggled to see the fun in this, though perhaps it's a statement of how peer pressure can result in questionable behaviour.

The highlight of this exhibition is the mock therapy sessions assembled by Pedro Reyes. We participated in a group session where we hide secrets within bottles and then read out the anonymised secrets from a previous group. It's a deeply philosophical experience that makes you question this unknown individual and build up a picture of them from one statement, there's also a strong sense of voyeurism in reading another person's secret.

There are some definite highs and lows in this exhibition, but the Reyes therapy sessions alone make it an easy recommendation for a visit.

The Spirit Of Utopia is on at Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX until 5 September. Admission is free.

Tabish Khan

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