My Head is an Animal – exhibition review

My Head is an Animal is an exhibition at South Square Gallery in Bradford until January 26, 2014. Review by Tim Barnes

[Image: Mette Sterre ©2013]

The interior walls that line the perimeter of South Square’s main gallery feel like the inside of a skull and the exhibition, like the fleshy, nervous tissue of the brain is sensitive and self-aware.

Curated by Clare Nadal, My Head is an Animal decapitates our psychological selves and while proclaiming the head a separate beast, this exhibition looks back at the body, now only a vacant chamber, open to radical new changes. The artists in this exhibition perhaps all in some way relate to body as a creative space where a multitude of dynamic possibilities can enter in.

Mette Sterre proposes a new living physique. Her performances involve possessing inanimate sculptural forms with her own animate self, inhabiting objects as though to give life to lifeless things. The sculptural costume and performance remnant Structurealist now sits on the floor, static but still somehow alive with potential. Its spiky surfaces are made from two hundred metres of folded netting, perhaps recalling the intestinal structure and numerous intricate pathways of the mind.

Holly Slingsby’s video performance, Collapsing Deities shows the artist herself assuming the different iconic likenesses of cultural and religious characters and symbols throughout history. Slingsby uses her body like a shop dummy pulling from an Ikea bag the props and improvised garments to make these transformations possible. There is a clear merging of imagery, as though these icons were being blurred into one encompassing and dynamic guise, a chewed-up and spat out character, as though obsessively perceived, becoming almost god-like and her own self seems either absent or absolutely present.

Samantha Donnelly’s sculptural assemblage Counter captures and confronts the viewer’s own image as their reflection ricochets around its mirrors. The installation calls into question how we perceive ourselves, exercising the viewer’s own self-conscious tendencies. Donnelly’s Visitors Series of collaged prints convey a sort of vacant space that perhaps acts like a framed pictorial vacuum where out-of-body thoughts rush in to fill the void.

Elizabeth Hudson’s video piece Hourglass charges the space with a great pressure and a strong sense of time passing, visitors might feel as though they are slowly decaying where they stand, the sound of each drop of water counting down to their end.

This is a space in which a real psychological presence is allowed to stir. Pressing upon the viewer are not only the artworks in the gallery but also, unsettlingly, the viewer’s own identity, image and mortality. When negotiating this space from one piece to another visitors can start to gather a fluidity of thought, becoming an active participant, losing their heads to this complex and multi-layered mental space.

More info about the exhibition


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