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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 â€˜souvenirs’, including Stone-mice (â€œpart rodent, part mineralâ€), 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 â€˜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 – â€œthere is no shapeâ€. 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.