Perhaps it's a professional deviation, but when I go to exhibitions these days, I firstly look at everything that is not art (I think) and then at works of art. So when I walked into the Gallery 7 room at the Whitechapel and saw how someone f*cked up the installation of old silver spoons INSIDE the wall (an artwork at the very entrance!!!), I couldn't stop looking at the whole exhibition through that first expression. It was stacking even more, as the biggest paragraph of the wall text was dedicated to the meaning behind this work.
But I must admit that once I walked around this ugly wall, I entered a completely different world. Temporary walls made of thick, white fabric made the space feel cosy and light. A huge mirror was on the other side of the wall with poorly installed spoons. We could discuss the use of mirrors in the art for at least a few hours, but it is always interesting how groups react to them in the exhibition spaces. You can almost touch the tension suspended in the air. Everyone tries their best not to look in the mirror. And yet, it was there so that we, the viewers, could see ourselves in that exhibition space. It was there for us to feel like a part of the display, unity with our surroundings or perhaps even as one of the objects. However, nobody wants to show that they are looking at themselves when you're with a group in a room because WHAT WOULD OTHERS THINK!!! That I am a narcissist? That I can see myself? That I really SEE myself? I recommend reading a text by Rob Horning called Perpetual Provisional Selves - a fascinating take on narcissism.
From the wall text, you can learn that the viewer is invited to experience a multi-sensory environment. Okay, the visual aspect was fully satisfied. Some sounds scared me a bit at some point and touch... I don't know. The Torso (Self-Portrait) sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, presented on a wooden plinth in white sand, and Donna Huanca's painting were screaming to be touched. BUT THE SMELL... I know it's a big part of Huanca's practice, but her scents always push me away. In 2020, when she had her solo show at Simon Lee's gallery, I was genuinely concerned about the employees' health and safety. Today, all rooms at the Whitechapel smelled VEEEEERY weirdly!!! VERY!
Nevertheless, the room was stunning. The colours of Huanca's painting in the centre were so beautiful, and they felt like the very reason for the show to exist. But FFS, I still felt like I was in a gallery. Despite knowing that someone made an effort to make me feel calm, welcome, self-aware and surrounded by beauty, I still saw the lady sitting next to the entrance. I know security is essential, BUUUUUT can’t they install a camera in a room and hide the employee behind the curtain?
I think the wall text explained well what was happening there or at least what they/she wanted to achieve. Still, the weight of the institution, the invigilator and being in a group drastically affected the experience. AND VERY POORLY INSTALLED SPOONS.