London Gets Its Own Science Gallery

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Last Updated 21 September 2018

London Gets Its Own Science Gallery
Table made of sugar collapsing under dissolution by tea.
Sugar Rush by Atelier 010. Image by author.

"We destroyed this one yesterday."

It's not a phrase you hear too often in a gallery, but this is no ordinary place of art.

The work in question is a table made of sugar, partly dissolved by tea — a dissolution of the elevenses. It 'critiques our consumer driven society by presenting a product that is designed to fail'. And it's one of many head-turning exhibits in HOOKED, the first exhibition at London Bridge's new Science Gallery London.

Outside Science Gallery London.
Image by author.

But let's back up a little. The gallery, spun out of King's College but part of an international group of such venues, presents works of art that are influenced by, or built upon science. Many of the art works draw on the expertise of King's researchers. If you're a fan of the Wellcome Collection, then you'll feel at home here.

The building replaces an infamous branch of McDonald's, whose golden arches poked like middle fingers within the purlieus of Guy's Hospital. It's a sleek and surprisingly large place that includes both a cafe and themed gift shop.

Head upstairs to the gallery space, designed to take three temporary exhibitions per year that touch on issues of global significance. The first concerns itself with addiction. That's addiction in all its forms, from hard drugs to gambling to social media to, well, sugar.

A push penny machine as artwork.
A push-penny machine where you can win part of the art work. Either keep it as a piece of original art, or put it back in the machine in an attempt to win more. It's called AGAIN, by Lawrence Epps. Image by author.

Not many paintings on the walls here. Rather, expect video art, interactive installations, playable games, virtual reality and a 'work for mobile phones'.

Some pieces, like the sugar table, are quickly absorbed. Others, notably Rachel Maclean's horrific Feed Me — which explores greed and temptation through nightmarish characters — require a full hour's sitting to watch in full.

It's an interesting and unusual mix of content. Some exhibits properly hook us in. Katriona Beales' Entering the Machine Zone even provides a comfy chair while it surreptitiously harvests our data through an addictive video game. Other pieces, like Joachim Koester's projection of a hashish club, fail to hit the spot. Taken as a whole, though, this is a playful exhibition with many memorable turns. Time and again it turns an old cliche on its head: "It's good, but is it science?".

Katriona Beales' video game art. (c) Alex Lloyd.

The Science Gallery is a copiously welcome addition to the London Bridge area. It's not the first place to mix the seemingly disparate worlds of science and art, but it does so with a flair and confidence that can only impress.

It's free to enter, so be sure to give it a go next time you're passing through. Future exhibitions will tackle the science and art of prosthetics and — we can't wait to see how they pull this one off — the cutting edge physics of dark matter.

Science Gallery London, Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9GU. Open 7 days a week, 10am-6pm (note, the gallery space is not open on Mondays, but the cafe and shop are). Follow on Twitter @SciGalleryLon. And check out the upcoming events programme.