Wednesday, 9 May 2012

David Shrigley: Brain Activity

Towards the end of our much blogged about journey to London, myself, Jord and Dom found ourselves at a bit of a loose end and so headed down to the SouthBank to catch David Shrigley's latest exhibition 'Brain Activity' at the 'Hayward Gallery'. Being a big Shrigley fan, I was excited about this, it sounded like fun way to round off what had been a fun and rewarding visit to 'the big smoke'.

I wasn't disappointed, every room of the exhibition seemed to be buzzing with creativity and humour. That is what I like and admire most about Shrigley is his sense of humor. Perhaps the funniest room, in a blackly comic and sardonic way, was the room entitled 'Death'. 

The first thing you see when you enter this room is a bizarre piece of taxidermy and one of the funniest pieces in the exhibition. It is the piece that has been pretty much ubiquitous in terms of the shows promotion, it is a deceased Jack Russell terrior, stuffed, stood on its hind legs and holding a sign bearing the morbid phrase: "I'm Dead". As I wright this I am aware that such a thing sounds like it would display vulgarity and a lack of taste, but quite to the contrary it actually displays a very playful sense of humor: the piece is hilarious. As people entered the room you could see them begin to crease up with laughter at the sight of this piece, and let us just pause for a minute to consider what an achievement that is: what other artist could make a dead dog funny? Designers pride themselves on their 'out of the box thinking' but I can't imagine there are many that when presented with the corpse of a Jack Russell would see its humorous potential.

Another macabre, but equally funny piece was entitled 'Gravestone' (2008). As the name would suggest the piece is indeed a gravestone, but one that lists the contents of a shopping list 'bread, milk, cornflakes... etc'. Again, I found it hilarious, I'm sure that if you think about it for long enough you could see it as the artist mocking death, or pointing out the futility of a life driven by consumerism (because when you die you can't take it with you) or any number of equally deep and disturbing interpretations. Or you could just see it as a good joke, delivered well. Personally, I choose the latter.

As we left the Hayward Gallery we felt satisfied and pleased to have visited, content in knowledge that we had been true art students and seen something culturally and artistically meaningful, and had a laugh at the same time. And then, again like true art students, we got the cheapest possible train home.

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