Antony Gormley - Blind Light - Hayward Gallery - London
Back in the 1990s a friend of mines band were playing at a pub in Camden. It was a big show. There was the promise of A+R types there - the hint of a deal. They decided to pull out all the stops and hire in some lights and effects.
Part way through the first song the singer hit the dry ice machine and the tiny room began to fill up with moody atmosphere. And then it continued to fill up. And fill up. And fill up. Soon you couldn't see the band. Then you couldn't see the person next to you. Or your hand. You couldn't see anything. The band obviously couldn't see as they stopped playing. There was a crash and the drummer fell off the ledge at the back of the stage. Frantic shouts of "Where's the fucking switch?" Somebody opened the fire door and the alarm went off and we all had to go and stand outside. Needless to say no deal ensued.
I was reminded of this endearing shambles by the new Antony Gormley exhibition at the Hayward. He has created a room within a room and filled it with a kind of fog. The minute you step into it you are lost. Blind Light is an exceptional piece of work that looks beautiful from the outside and is disconcerting and invigorating to experience. As you move around in a state of, I suppose something like snow-blindness you become acutely aware of your own body as you fear banging into the wall or the occasional fellow visitor looming out of the white.
I have problems with Gormley's art in general. Never has there been a more ME ME ME artist. Seemingly a sponge for every drop of public art funding he is best known for his Angel of the North and more recently a beach full of castings of himself. He has recently littered the London skyline with more castings of his own naked self all of which stare down at this exhibition. The media have been particularly enthusiastic about these and are suggesting that the public are in love with them too.
But a brief overhead conversation of a couple of visitors to the viewing platform at the exhibition echoed my own views. "Its not just that he wants us to look at his naked body in all these sculptures - he wants to watch us watching him. He's kind of creepy"
The rest of the exhibition is not especially impressive. There are endless variations of Gormley's body; there is another "experience" room with holes in the floor and walls that just doesn't work at all. You have to queue for that and even on a midweek morning I was in line for 15 minutes. It wasn't worth the wait.
Blind Light however would be a worthy addition to any theme park and judged as a work of "entertainment art" like the recent Tate slides there can be no higher recommendation than that.