Art of Change, Hayward Gallery

The idea that the only constant is change is central to Eastern philosophy, bad news for fans of fixed notions but affirmative if nothing flows like your Zen sensibilities. A three-month long exhibit and performance installation at the Southbank Centre’s’ Hayward Gallery explores change from a dizzying and delightful range of angles.

The work of contemporary Chinese artists Chen Zhen, Gu Dexin, Liang Shaoji, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Wang Jianwei, Xu Zhen, MadeIn Company and Yingmei Duan feature in this multi-storey tribute to impermanence. While Turbulent – spray-painted canvasses prizing expression over content – would be more deserving of the title Pretentious, the majority of the works go further than their names would suggest.

Part of the joy of a very interactive experience is the joy of discovery. Revealing too much would be tantamount to spoiling a film. May I simply encourage people to attend at the times (listed below) that the performance artists are present. And can I also suggest ducking into a secluded cave by the sign Happy Yingmei. The experience that lies inside pushes boundaries in a healthy, good-humoured, profoundly surreal way.

Other highlights include Xu Zhen’s In Just a Blink of an Eye – in which a girl is suspended from invisible wires in a position designed to recreate the image of someone falling. As well as being punishingly uncomfortable and therefore causing awe, this exhibit strives to make you think about the split-second moment in which the girl is frozen.

Liang Shaoji’s Nature Series cuts to the heart of the exhibition. Every day the quantity of silk woven by his silkworms increases meaning that every day his installation has changed. For certain unlucky worms the change is fatal as some are trapped and suffocated by the silk of their peers. As horrific as the notion of silkworm corpses sounds, their position beside screens worth of silk lends poetry to their passing.

If I sound like I’m getting over-dramatic about silkworms it’s because the gallery’s atmosphere is conducive to sensitivity. Whether through bafflement, curiosity or exhilaration, punters cross that ‘stranger-danger’ London line, recommending exhibits and debriefing on interactions with artists. So if you’re fed up of being wary and want to shake off London conventions through art, there’s nowhere more fitting to go for a change.

Art of Change: New Directions From China runs until 9 December at:

Hayward Gallery
Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road
South Bank

Tel: 020 7960 4200

Artist Yingmei Duan is performing daily in the galleries at the following times:

Monday: 2pm – 5pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday: 12 noon – 5pm
Thursday and Friday: 12 noon – 7pm

Photo by Linda Nylind

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