Free art exhibitions in London
There’s nothing more revoltingly pointless than an inspirational quote. The kind of thing your aunt posts on Facebook: ‘Life’s not about the destination, it’s about figuring out how to use the touchscreen ticket machine at the station’ or some nonsense, slapped on a picture of a tranquil beach or a weeping kitten. American artist Jenny Holzer’s work is decades’ worth of statements, aphorisms, quotes and poetry. She takes words and sentences and plasters them over the streets, prints them on cups and condoms, engraves them into marble, and sends them stuttering at lightspeed along LED columns. Stood here surrounded by words in this small new display, what strikes you is both the power and powerlessness of language. The first room is covered in collected statements, things like ‘the land belongs to no one’, ‘women love power’, ‘you should study as much as possible’. They’re sentences presented and said as truth, advice, things to live your life by. But they contradict each other, cancel each other out. Some implore peace, others call for violence. You end up nodding at the ones that resonate, shaking your head at the rest. For you, those specific words work, for someone else they won’t. Then you worry that just maybe none of it means anything. The only works that feel firm in their definition are the ones based on testimony from the Iraq War; here, lived experiences usurp interpretation. But everything else – the LEDs, the marble benches, the plaques – just makes you query
Cindy Sherman is a film star. Actually, she’s loads of film stars. She’s a reclining blonde looking wistfully into the distance, a slight redhead in a robe, a blushing bride and a raven haired beauty. She’s also three country sisters and their mother, she’s a group of four near-identical stars. It’s seriously creepy. For 35 years, Sherman has been the subject of her own work. She’s transformed herself into an endlessly rotating series of characters. She mocks, twists and undermines femininity and gender roles, and in this show of recent work, she’s become a bunch of fictional pre-war film stars. Each character sits against a digital background, like they’re posing in a promo shot for a non-existent film. They have all the hallmarks you think old female film stars should have. Some are homely, gentle, safe and cutesy – geriatric Judy Garlands – but most have a menace to them. They look like old alcoholic stars, long past their prime, wishing their lives away on a divan, dreaming of their departed lovers. Their star quality has dimmed. Are these photoshoots goodbyes? You imagine a big bottle of piles and a glass of whisky waiting in the background. Tragic figures, nostalgic and vain. By mocking those ideas, by dragging them out into the open by the hair, Sherman is giving a good two fingers up at the idea of all of that. Those boohoo classic tragedies are dismantled here, dismissed outright. It’s classic, humorous, creepy, angry Cindy Sherman.
Semen straws are used to artificially inseminate cattle as part of a process to breed the best and beefiest bulls. But artist Maria McKinney has another use for them: building sculptures. The artist’s photos of moody-looking bulls wearing these sculptures make up the first room of ‘Somewhere in Between’. McKinney’s stud-farm snaps, titled ‘Sire’, are part of an exhibition that looks at the point where science and art meet – so far, so very Wellcome Collection. Each artist featured approaches the theme in totally different ways. Daria Martin’s ‘Sensorium Tests’ and ‘At the Threshold’ are two short films about mirror-touch synesthesia, a fascinating and often debilitating condition where a person physically feels the things they see – like the pain of a knife slicing into a grapefruit. Next is ‘Alien Sex Club’ by John Walter, a psychotropic-maze-meets-gay-sauna exploring a new era of life and sex with HIV now that medicine can control the condition. Neon cartoon viruses dance on the walls, a marrow wearing a woolly hat (a bit like those Innocent Smoothie ones) lies in a glass case and Caravaggio’s ‘Boy with a Basket of Fruit’ has had his fruit replaced by giant condoms. It’s a hyperactive sensory assault and one that’s followed by its natural opposite, three gloriously tranquil films by Martina Amati showing free diving. Of the four installations, it’s Amati’s that performs the science-art balancing act the best. With the others, the scales always swing one way or the othe
You know nature is full of patterns – but turns out there’s also loads that simply can’t be seen with the naked eye. That’s where science comes in: this exhibition reveals the pretty patterns that make up our world on a molecular and cellular level. But the Crick Institute has also commissioned artists to respond to them, with sound artist Chu-Li Shewring and poet Sarah Howe inspired by genomic data sets, and Helen Pynor’s photographic installation exploring the movement patterns of the fruit fly. We’re buzzing for it.
Following a 2016 residency at Camden Arts Centre, Yuko Mohri returns to the gallery with a new installation in gallery 3. While at art school, she was involved in Tokyo's experimental music scene, before switching her attention to objects and sculpture. This piece may bring those interests together, however: it'll use ambient sound, light and atmospheric conditions to 'animate a musical environment.'