Ben Jeans Houghton: ! Blessed Be :)) Merry Part :(( But Again!

Art Free
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Ben Jeans Houghton’s first solo UK show is a bit like a weird collector’s den and a bit like a mad scientist’s lab: wild, cluttered, but ordered with care. He’s filled the gallery space with more trinkets, statues, objets d’art and New Age-looking gubbins than you can shake a shaman’s stick at. Along one wall is a series of shrine-like assemblages arranged in a chromatic spectrum. In one corner is the artist’s childhood bed, complete with a few creepy-looking crayoned doodles on the wall. There’s even a tiny replica of a Stonehenge-like monument sitting on a drum. Yep, just like the one in ‘Spinal Tap’. It all reflects Jeans Houghton’s interest in arcane practises like alchemy and magick. (Note the ‘k’. This means it’s the serious, old-school type, not that Harry Potter shite.)

The centrepiece of the show is a floor-based interactive ‘birth chart’. What you do is this: on a laptop, you access an astrology website (that looks like it was built circa 1998) and enter your date and location of birth. The site produces a code, which guides you in moving the chart’s lightbulbs to the right zodiac sign running around the circumference. Then, as you mark your initials with some numerals on the chart, the site delivers a report on you and your particular alignment. Sadly, no matter the descriptions of ‘nobility’ and ‘creative vitality’, this humble Leo wasn’t entirely convinced. But that’s beside the point. Jeans Houghton isn’t just poking fun: that would be too one-note. What he’s really doing in this exhibition is showing us that art is basically just another one of those weird, esoteric activities, grounded in its own rituals and superstitions. And in this way, art can be magical. If, sometimes, very daft at the same time.


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