‘Art of Change’ captivates audience


The Hayward Gallery is a strange building. Constructed in a brutalist style, it is a big ugly piece of concrete, cut at weird angles. After walking in a small, unceremonious door – nothing like the grandeur of the Tate Modern’s airplane hangar-like entrance, or the Victoria and Albert museum’s chandelier. Instead a small room leads to a slightly larger room with a ramp. Inside, the “Art of Change: New Directions from China,” a series of contemporary and performance pieces catches the eye in the strangest of ways.

The first piece you see is a graveyard of large blocks of concrete, cast from stones thrown in Chinese protests and rebellions. Next is a set of exercise equipment connected to remote controls, allowing the observer to have the equipment exercise for them. An odd room which contains a woman lying fast asleep in a sleeping bag. A series of silk worms spinning their cocoons, the sounds of them eating their leaves. This odd experience leaves the observer perplexed, and stands out as one of the only worthwhile contemporary art show I have ever seen.

Pieces ranged from a man pulling the Neo move from The Matrix for half an hour at a time, to a large white box from which objects randomly are thrown into the air. I stayed and saw a woman emerge from the box who told me that there were some twenty objects in this box, and they could choose to throw whichever they wanted. A column of fat taken from a year’s worth of liposuctions stands at 20 feet tall, trying to mimic a roman column. Large glass cases full of grotesquely large bugs adorn walls.

Not every piece was worth viewing, though some left me offended and angry. There is a running clip of dogs being coaxed to fight and put on treadmills, constantly running at each other, barking like mad. These just made me uncomfortable and sad for the poor dogs, but, that was the intention of the piece.

There were two pieces that really stuck out to me. One was a wall covered in wet paint. That was it. When you touched the wall, you were marked with white. The second was a ping pong table that had large indents throughout it. My brother and I played on that for twenty minutes alone, the longest time I have ever spent in front of one work of art.

Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei was very critical of this exhibit. He said that it was not political enough and did not accuratley encompass Chinese contemporary art. While this may be true, for the first time ever, I was not annoyed with a contemporary art exhibit. Ai Wei Wei is correct, it was not political. Instead, it was an enjoyable viewing experience.

Leaving this odd concrete monstrosity, I felt, for the first time, satisfied by a contemporary art exhibit. I am always skeptical of contemporary art, but this one opened my eyes. It is well worth a visit.