Alternative Guide to the Universe at the Hayward Gallery

Step into a parallel universe at the Hayward Gallery this summer where mavericks, visionaries and outsiders have created an untraditional perspective of the world we live in, through art.

The Alternative Guide to the Universe exhibition comes as part of the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Neighbourhood. I went along to the press view, to delve into the world of eccentric art, before it officially opened today.

The exhibition focuses on individuals who depart from the accepted way of thinking and re-imagine the rules of culture and science, featuring contributions from self-taught artists and architects, fringe physicists, dreamers and visionary inventors who have created an artistic landscape that stretches to the far horizons of our imagination. Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, described the exhibition as “going outside the parameters of the so-called art world … going outside the parameters of the so-called outsider art world.”

Through paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography and architectural models; alternative calendars, a detailed human nervous system, scientific charts, engineering plans, functioning robots and blueprints for cities of the future and the evolution of human consciousness are created.

What I found particularly thought-provoking was that this art isn’t produced to purely be aesthetically pleasing, but that its creators are motivated by a wide range of concerns. William Scott, for example, worked on a planning project to see his hometown of San Francisco rebuilt to be “spiritually and physically transformed” believing this change will come about from encounters between UFO’s and members of his local Baptist Church, enabling people to reinvent their lives.

Several photographers in the exhibition explore fictional identities and alter egos, including a homeless artist from Chicago, Lee Godie, who used photo-booths to create hundreds of self-portraits, portraying herself in different guises.

Most fascinating was the remote control child robot you can see wandering around the exhibition, created by Wu Yulu to chase people. Wu began creating the robots with specific abilities, such as cleaning and washing the dishes, with rubbish he found near his farm.

And that’s not all, upstairs is the Museum of Everything, a world famous wandering space for undiscovered artists of modern time. In keeping with the reinvention of reality, a number of sculptures, photographs and film are dedicated to visionary builder, Nek Chand. He has spent more than 50 years creating the world’s greatest outdoor art environment, the “Rock Garden”, outside Chandigarh, India, which is formed completely from scrap materials covering 20 acres.

If you want to explore the art further, you can take part in one of the tours, where you will visit the exhibition in the company of artists, scholars, curators and writers, who will present their own views on the artwork

Whether you are an art fanatic or not, this exhibition is sure to make you think outside of the conventional and question the definition of “normal” art.

Alternative Guide to the Universe at the Hayward Gallery until 26 August.

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