GSK Contemporary, Earth: Art of a Changing World – Royal Academy of Arts, 31 January 2010

Yep, another exhibition visited on its last day. Determined not to miss this one, I was there at opening time and I only had to share the exhibits with a handful of people, which was surprising and delightful.

The GSK Contemporary, Earth: Art of a Changing World exhibition was held in what I understand was the old Museum of Mankind. Located at the back of the Royal Academy of Arts, 6 Burlington Gardens, I felt, was a bit of an awkward space for contemporary art pieces.

Obviously, the main attraction there as far as I’m concerned was “Amazonian Field” (Antony Gormley). This was the third time I’ve come face to face with this work; I adore those terracotta figures. Packed together, they filled the room they were in, a few of them almost creeping out. Staring at you, it seems that there is a lot they want to tell you. Going down to their level (lying on the floor), you’re almost overwhelmed by their presence.

The overall theme of the exhibition linked art to climate change. Is art jumping on the climate change band-wagon I wondered? Can “Amazonian Field” for example be successfully linked to climate change now (the work was made in 1992 when climate change was definitely not in the news)? Gormley himself apparently was intrigued to see how the work could be reinterpreted. Is it valid for artists to have a voice and for their art to reflect their views? Is Art still Art if it has a ‘political’ point?

Some pieces, like”Kings of the Hill” (Yael Bartana) or “Heart of Darkness” (Cornelia Parker), do make you think of the (negative)  impact we have on the world. In the first one, men play with their big cars, wasting petrol and destroying the environment just for fun. In the second one, we see the remnants of a forest fire, a controlled burn which got out of control.

Other pieces were enjoyable just for being themselves and certainly did not make me think about the big issue. I particularly liked “It’s My Island I”: a video in which Finish artist Antti Laitinen builds his own island in the Baltic sea. I could have spent a lot of time staring at “Tide”(Darren Almond), a 567 digital clock display ticking away. And I still don’t know what to make of “100 Years” (Kris Martin). This small golden sphere is due to explode a 100 years from its creation (2004). Really? Why? How will we know if it did? Pointless? And then there was “Doomed” (Tracey Moffat), a video collage of movie disasters. This was supposed to explore our obsession with disasters… Chilling clips which made me drift away to think about the tsunami or the even more recent earthquake in Haiti. And if anything, it reaffirmed my belief that The Towering Inferno is still one of the best disaster films of all time.

GSK Contemporary, Earth: Art of a Changing World certainly raised some questions; but may be not the questions it was setting out to do.

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