A Crowd Of Creepy Manikins Assembles At ICA

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 38 months ago
A Crowd Of Creepy Manikins Assembles At ICA ★★★★☆ 4
This manikin is the focus of the exhibition as many of the others look toward it. Photo: Mark Blower
This manikin is the focus of the exhibition as many of the others look toward it. Photo: Mark Blower
There is something unsettling about these dolls. Photo: Robert Keziere
There is something unsettling about these dolls. Photo: Robert Keziere
These are well-crafted pieces, the detail clearly modelled on real people. Photo: Robert Keziere
These are well-crafted pieces, the detail clearly modelled on real people. Photo: Robert Keziere
A lot can be read into each manikin's pose. Photo: Robert Keziere
A lot can be read into each manikin's pose. Photo: Robert Keziere
These mirrors surround the exhibition, casting a distorted view. Photo: Robert Keziere
These mirrors surround the exhibition, casting a distorted view. Photo: Robert Keziere
Close-up detail of one of the faces. Photo: Robert Keziere
Close-up detail of one of the faces. Photo: Robert Keziere

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

What's most striking about Ydessa Hendeles's collection of 150 wooden dolls and artist manikins is that, as you enter the exhibition, most are sat in rows facing away from you. Are these dolls here to draw one of their kind? Is this a courtroom setting? Or are the figures sitting on church pews? Could they be worshipping the larger manikin demi-god who stands before them?

The different sizes of the manikins make the figures feel like a whole host of families. One 'boy' stares up to the left — what has he spotted that the others haven't? Another manikin lies on a table as if damaged — what exactly has happened to it? And is that another manikin operating on one of its own? These are the types of questions that will pop into your head in this purposefully ambiguous exhibition.

The longer you spend at From her wooden sleep... the creepier and more surreal it feels — exacerbated by the piped-in piano symphony emanating from speakers above a manikin-sized piano.

As if all of this wasn't disturbing enough, there are curved mirrors along all the walls so the display becomes distorted and even more bizarre.  Over time viewers will start to imbue these manikins with their own personalities based on their looks and poses, resulting in an unsettling yet quite brilliant exhibition.

From her wooden sleep ... Ydessa Hendeles is on at the ICA theatre until 17 May. £1 for day membership and free on Tuesdays. Also still on at ICA is the fantastically composed photography of Viviane Sassen and the political work of Dor Guez.

For more art to see, visit our most talked about and top 10 art exhibitions in March.

Last Updated 26 March 2015