On Edge: Living in an Age of Anxiety review

3 out of 5 stars
On Edge: Living in an Age of Anxiety review
Sarah Howe 'Consider Falling' (2018) © the artist

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

At the top of the Science Gallery’s stairs you have a choice: left or right. Not a big deal unless you find tiny, mundane decision-making the source of fathomless panic. Choose ‘right’ and you immediately see a gallery attendant, which also shouldn’t be a big deal unless you find interactions with strangers the social equivalent of taking a skydive without equipment.

Anxiety sucks. It’s pointless, debilitating and, often, very boring. This multi-artist exhibition is about the condition in all its nail-biting, bile-rising, dizzying forms.

Created in collaboration with scientists and researchers at King’s College London (where the Science Gallery is based), the exhibition attacks this common foe from a number of perspectives, including the possibility that anxiety can be channelled into positive change.

One of the most impressive is Benedict Drew’s ‘The Bad Feel Loops’, a dual screen video work beating out hypnotic flashes of colour and broken, wobbly, wonky images to recreate the information overload of today’s digital age. Drew submerges the viewer in this rainbow sludge, dunking them again and again and again in the hope that at the end of it all lies euphoria, not the lobotomisation of the human race.

Alice May Williams also ramps up the colour and retro patterns with her paintings based on the fist-pumping language and anxiety-beating experience of women’s football. Two larger works, ‘With You’ and ‘If You Need’ have a vintage sports kit feel and, unlike most positive affirmations, feel genuine instead of empty.

Sarah Howe’s installation ‘Consider Falling’ takes the opposite route and recreates the experience of certain anxiety disorders. Randomised geometric shapes reveal triangular mirrors with repeated video clips reflected in them. It’s disorientating, sickening, hyper-familiar.

The rest contains several exhibits that seem like the start of someone’s research or are more interesting in theory than in the form they’re presented here. But it does all show there’s a lot of people suffering from, thinking about or working to solve anxiety. And like Williams found with football, that creates a nice team spirit.

By: Rosemary Waugh


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