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Quick notes about the "Eyeball Massage" exhibition by Pipilotti Rist at the Hayward Gallery that I went to on its opening date today (I am such an up-to-the-minute arthound) because if I try to write anything long I will not end up posting it.

An observation that I came up with within seconds was that I liked this because of the interest in creating microcosms - some tiny, "straight" miniature representations of environments - as you enter, the first chamber of the Hayward is filled with a dollhouse-scale suburban home with surrounding fields and video installation - and also vignettes, pieces which are little scenes of a world, without any specific miniaturisation. A lot of the exhibition seemed designed to give an impression of and portray space and scenes. (This isn't just my interpretation by the way, it's mentioned in the artist's notes too.)

I have a great interest in this, which is one of my major drives in virtual worlds and games, and so I was fascinated. There's also a bit about microcosms in the human body, which means lots of close-ups of eyes and nipples and stuff which I was a bit bored by to be honest - I got over "don't people look weird in close-up, wow you lose all sense that it's actually a human being" a while ago. But that's not overwhelming.

One other thing that reminded me of virtual worlds was the use of video and audio on any available flat surface. Almost every item either has a projector and screens, or a tiny LCD video display hidden in it somewhere, and they all have accompanying audio via gallery sound or little speakers. There is one area that has a number of open objects on pedestals - handbags, seashells - each with a little A/V unit embedded somewhere with image and sound loops, so that you almost have to stick your face inside to see and hear what this means. Video and ambient sounds are common tools in virtual installations, particularly projected onto (well, loaded onto) planes, and some of the best ones contain tiny details that you have to zoom in to properly appreciate.

I would post some pictures and video here to illustrate what I mean, but unfortunately the whole thing has very low ambient light with a few very bright parts, which is fine for looking at when you are there but which cameraphones hate. So all of my pictures and video look awful. I should mention that, outside the gallery, the exhibition is advertised with extremely long washing lines that have pants on them. There is also a bubble-blowing machine on the top of the coffee shop connected to the Hayward, which rarely manages to get a full-sized bubble past its own rim and the guardrail just beyond it, but occasionally one does slip over and drift in the air for a while, entranced by its own wobbly bulbous shape, until it pops into a cloud of detergent.

December 2014

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