Mark Wallinger – The Human Figure in Space. Hastings Battleaxe Reviews….

Mark Wallinger is a Turner prize-winning big name in the art world, and his exhibition, The Human Figure in Space is an important event for the Jerwood Gallery. It is on until October…  Philosopher, as a gallery volunteer, went to the exhibition talk, given by the artist. He said that Mr Wallinger is a really nice bloke, so I’ll be polite…..

So, what is it all about? Apparently, it is supposed to be ‘both playful and thought-provoking….’        

    Firstly, there is a room with about five tellies, playing fuzzy, slow-motion versions of the clips you got on that dire programme with Harry Hill – You’ve Been Framed. You know, people falling off flimsy things while trying to cross streams and getting stuck in the mud, grannies falling over showing their bloomers, dogs on skateboards. Now, don’t ask me why, considering he’s a Philosopher, but my husband just loves that sort of thing – he’d watch for ever, laughing very loudly – so, by default, I’ve seen lots as well.  Do I want to watch fuzzy versions in the Jerwood? Not really, to be honest.
    Then, a room with tiny photos of people jumping off Worthing Pier in the annual bird-man competition. The photos were beautifully reproduced, but teeny-tiny, dotted around the walls. Here’s one from the internet. All that must have been making points about the daft things that poeple do……

     In the big Foreshore Gallery, the main event is a sort of tribute to Edweard Muybridge, the first person to photograph horses – and people, in motion. (Yes, his name is spelt like that, he was a fan of archaic Anglo-Saxon stuff…..) I know about Muybridge because I was a pony-mad little girl. Before Muybridge, galloping horses were represented with their legs all pointing forward and backwards like a rocking horse. Muybridge showed how they really moved. He also did lots of pictures of naked blokes running, jumping, fighting etc. – of interest when the pony phase had passed. Here is the most famous Muybridge film, the horse, made in 1878.  First suggestion to you, Mark – many people visiting the exhibition may not know much, if anything, about Muybridge, and will not get the point of what you are trying to do. In your shoes, I would have rigged up another telly playing some of Muybridge’s films on a loop…..

     Three walls of the gallery are covered in an enormous grid. The grid is not painted – far too easy… it is made of string. I think Philosopher told me it had taken two weeks to put up… It must have been dreadfully fiddly. Now Mark, why is it string? Why not just paint the grid onto panels and fix those to the walls? How does it being string add to the experience?  The temptation for visitors to twang and plink the string will be so strong – it will get saggy….


      The fourth wall is entirely covered in mirror.  You are meant to enjoy yourself moving up and down in front of the mirror with the Muybridge grid in the background.
      Mark, it’s Battleaxe again. The thing with the mirror – it is a fattening mirror. All women (and many men) reading this will know that some mirrors are fattening, and some are slimming. Hell, the trouble Battleaxe had a few years ago – I bought an expensive antique cheval mirror off Ebay and it was fattening…. I couldn’t bear looking into it. I had to sell it again with vast difficulty, and buy another….
       Do I want to look into fattening mirrors? No. Nevertheless, to try and get into the spirit of the event, I forced Philosopher to video me walking along in front of the mirror, and in the spirit of artistic integrity, here it is – but I look fat…. Mirror, mirror on the wall……

       That brings me to the final point for you, Mark. There are two mirror panels on the far side of the gallery, beyond the door, which are a bit out of the main view. For kids, and grown-up kids, you could have made those proper distorting fairground mirrors – people love playing with those.
        So, did I like the exhibition? I suppose so, vaguely… Hills of beans come to mind, and not magic beans either.  If I wasn’t a member and had to pay money to get into the gallery? It is curious, and faintly interesting, but playful? I’d rather pay half the price for a round of crazy golf or a couple of games of air hockey in the amusement arcade. Sorry Mark.

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