Tuesday, July 15, 2014

But seriously

We'd seen the dog with the purple front leg before as part of Pierre Huyghe’s contribution to Documenta 13 in 2012 but then it was often lurking behind a large spill of gravel. This time the dog was roaming around the museum where a large Huyghe’s survey exhibition was underway and was sometimes, but not always, accompanied by a guy with a strange mask. The dog was enough really.

The strange thing was how much more real the dog seemed in these large white galleries than it had outside in nature, albeit a nature somewhat distorted by Huyghe. In part we all felt comfortable about the dog because of the relaxed attitude of the guards at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. They had obviously been specifically briefed for this exhibition - you could sit anywhere, lean on anything, touch most things, take photos, lie down, and so on.

Was this attitude why most of the visitors were under 30? The exhibition was staged as a series of inter-related but distinct encounters and this chunking really worked. Each event (whether it was a large scale video, a set of drawings, a statue with a beehive growing on its head, an aquarium, smoke and mirrors) was an opportunity for people to lie on the floor, talk among themselves and absorb the exhibition in a way that is quite different from the long hard stare we're used to. It may have become a cliché but the phrase that best summed up the Huyghe exhibition was serious fun. Not just populist or spectacular or interactive (although it turned out to be all three) but the fun made by an intensely curious artist treated seriously. And there were no labels, just a sheet with a map, list of works and brief commentary. #justsaying