Psycho Buildings

Another beautiful day on the Southbank started with a visit to an exhibition which I’ve been looking forward to seeing, Psycho Buildings at the Hayward Gallery. I’m always a little cautious with these types of exhibitions — the outcomes can be somewhat erratic, or just disappointing, and I often find myself walking away wishing that the space had been put to better use. I kept an open mind with this one — both Rebecca Horn’s solo exhibit and the recent Antony Gormley show were absolutely excellent and the gallery has certainly gone a long way in redeeming past disappointments.

Psycho Buildings

An exhibition regarding architecture at the Hayward was always going to be contentious. The Hayward already makes a unique architectural statement — to ask pieces to coexist with this already overtly controversial structure seems a little odd. Wouldn’t a simple structure such as a warehouse be a better environment? Concerns aside, what was the work like?

Those expecting a bold vision of Rachel Whiteread may be a little disappointed — in veering away from her commentaries on space, occupation and containment, she adds a layer of sentimentality which I found a little disconcerting. Her collection of doll’s houses offers a very personal opinion on architecture, but I have to admit it left me a little cold.

Staircase-V, 2003/04/08

Ironically Do Ho Suh, in his beautifully fragile piece “Staircase‑V, 2003/04/08” manages to deal with precisely the themes we’ve come to expect from Whiteread. I found it incredibly difficult not to touch this piece, it has an amazing sense of negative space. I found myself wanting to explore its forms, to move within its spaces even though I knew I couldn’t. Perhaps with this piece Do Ho Suh has outdone Whiteread on her own turf. Powerful stuff, I found it very inspiring.

Ernesto Neto’s delicate piece, “Life Fog Frog… Fog Frog, 2008”, is beautiful but could have been so much more. Like Do Ho Suh’s work, you want to reach out to it — whilst it succeeds in evoking some wonderfully delicate organic structures, it fails to engage fully without that interaction. Architecture is personal interaction with space, made real with use of form and matter. Well, that’s the way I’ve always seen it.

To the memory of H. P. Lovecraft, 1999, 2008

I finished my tour with Mike Nelson’s piece “To the memory of H. P. Lovecraft, 1999, 2008”. Stepping through the doors to the scene of mayhem and destruction beyond, I couldn’t help but laugh. In ripping apart the exhibition space Nelson uses the very fabric of the Hayward to remove us temporarily from the entire experience. I found it liberating and very amusing.

Of course the ultimate winner will always be the Hayward itself — every time I visit this gallery, and I have been a regular for almost 20 years now, I feel the need to touch the beautifully rendered concrete of the stairwells and walls, to feel the gentle wood grained surface which is always at the same cool temperature. It’s an amazing environment, an oasis of peace and tranquillity in the centre of one of the world’s most intense cities.