Walking In My Mind at Hayward Gallery

Please note this blog is no longer active. This post was last updated 8 years, 10 months ago and may contain out of date prices, opening times, links and information. Go to www.visitlondon.com for the lastest visitor information for London.

Yayoi Kusuma, Dots Obsession 2004, © Yayoi Kusama 2009, Photo: Yayoi Kusama Studio

Yayoi Kusuma, Dots Obsession 2004, © Yayoi Kusama 2009, Photo: Yayoi Kusama Studio

The Hayward Gallery has gone all John Malkovich on us with their surreal, new exhibition Walking In My Mind. Through a series of giant works and sculptures, ten artists invite us to enter their imaginations.

The exhibition begins before you even step foot inside the Hayward. Along the sunny Southbank, 24 trees have been wrapped in red spotted fabric. It’s the brainwave of iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama – a life-long dot-obsessive, according to a recent interview in The Guardian.

Of course, all art is about stepping into the artist’s imagination, but in Walking In My Mind it is a much more physical, adventurous experience. It was also darker, funnier and more bizarre than I expected. 

Scottish-born artist Charles Avery had me chuckling out loud with his inventive project The Islanders. As well as sketches of life on his imaginary island, Avery displays his ‘souvenirs’, including Stone-mice (“part rodent, part mineral”), which look suspiciously like normal stones, and a Bejewelled Hare – stuffed and brandishing its bling like a hip-hop superstar.

Thomas Hirschhorn’s Cavemanman was even more surreal. His uneven maze of tiny caves and tunnels, made of cardboard and plastered in brown parcel tape, was like something out of a postman’s nightmare.

But there was a darker side to the exhibition too. Walking through Chiharu Shoita’s After The Dream was quite unsettling. The painstakingly woven web of wool – Shoita told me it took a week to complete – felt like a swarm of bats that could get caught in your hair any second. 

Yayoi Kusama’s new work, Dots Obession, has become the ‘face’ of the exhibition so I was eager to see this. For me, the red spotted shapes worked best on the Southbank and on the bright, green Astroturf of the Hayward’s sculpture terrace, where they looked vibrant and delightfully out of place.

One of the curators Mami Kataoka pointed out that while a doctor can visually see the brain, the mind itself has no boundaries – “there is no shape”. This sense of freedom in self-expression has produced an exhibition that really does blow your mind.

Inspired by the exhibition and want to discuss your views? Head along to the Hayward’s free workshop Talking In My Mind on 5 July.


  1. AClarke says:


    I was planning on taking my 9year old son to this exhibition but since reading about the pornographic nature of some of the rooms, I’m not sure.

    Can you advise as to how much of the show is unsuitable for children?

    • Carinya says:

      Hi AClarke, you’re right – there has been some controversy around the use of sexual images in Walking In My Mind. Jason Rhoades’ The Creation Myth uses images from hardcore pornography, which (when you notice them) are pretty graphic. According to The Evening Standard there will now be an attendant outside the room to warn visitors. There are also images of floating body parts in Pipilotti Rist’s installation, posters of page three girls in Thomas Hirschhorn’s Cavemanman and some quite dark exhibits, so I would suggest you see the exhibition alone first, if possible – or take your son to see Yayoi Kusama’s red dotted trees on the Southbank instead!

  2. AClarke says:

    Thanks so much for your help. We might jsut stick to the trees outside!

  3. MissChriss says:

    Great review. Nothing like a bit of surrealism in summer… you’ve inspired me to wander down at lunchtime to check it out. Thanks.