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What We Saw On Our Holidays

To kick off the NRG's new term we thought we'd get some of our members to write about their favorite exhibitions they found themselves in during the Christmas holidays.

Alice in Wonderland 

The British Library, London, 20th Nov-17th April 2016.

Nick Yiannitsaros.

In all of the one-hundred-and-fifty-plus-years that the tales of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have been enjoyed by kids of all ages, I don’t think any of us quite expected the entrance to the rabbit hole to be located behind the reception desk at the British Library.

Despite the bright openness of the foyer, there are a few curatorial features that add a nice touch of Alice appropriate whimsy which you encounter when travelling through Alice’s journey, such as a cardboard ‘Drink Me’ bottle and a house with poor, giant, Alice stuck inside. After you travel with Alice, through her many various manifestations, the exhibit takes you to see the effect that she has had all over the world, presenting you with such treasures as some of the earliest Alice in Wonderland merchandise from the late nineteenth century.

Alice captured the imagination of all, even those with, some might say, imagination to spare as seen in Dali’s bright illustrations that will surely take you on an electrifying trip down the rabbit hole.

States of Mind

Ann Veronica Janssens 

The Wellcome Collection, London, 15th October- 3rd January 2016.

Ella Baker.

Thinking I was walking into a beauty-school-drop-out version of Anthony Gormley's Blinding Light, Ann Veronica Janssens' Yellowbluepink surprised me with its changes in colours; first pink, then yellow and blue light projected through the steam that filled the exhibition space.

A wonderland of coloured lights and mist, restricting your vision to less than an arms length away, this strange room was both disorientating and fascinating in its juxtaposition of nightmares of getting lost, yet doing so in calm pastel clouds of light. Shapes of other spectators would lure out of the flat colour around you as suddenly as their voices, muted by the fog would. Once the novelty wore off the effects of limiting your eyes made you hyper aware of your surroundings, which was both odd and wonderful - I was convinced there was a central pillar in the empty installation space that had to be avoided!

The Wellcome Collection specialises in exhibits and art around the body, and this is what is  played with through physical experimentation. In placing you in an environment that affects your body's perception directly, the installation allows you to encounter space differently and consider your perceptions with newly found focus.

The British Art Show 8

Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds, 9th October-10 January 2016

Tilly Heydon.

The British Art show is a contemporary exhibition that tours around the UK. I had the fortune to visit it in its first leg in Leeds this winter, and it was worth the hype. The Art Show exhibits work from 39 contemporary British artists, and as such it was woven throughout the entire three storey gallery. While this meant that entire rooms were dedicated to showing the contemporary works, it also meant that some were forced to coexist with the permanent fine art exhibitions.

In the case of Cally Spooner’s Damning Evidence Illicit Behaviour Seemingly Insurmountable Great Sadness Terminated in Any Manner, this worked extremely well. Spooner’s piece, an LED display showing Youtube comments underneath recent scandals such as Beyonce's lip syncing at Obama's presidential inauguration and Lance Armstong apologising for using performance enhancing drugs, is hung next to classical portraiture of beautiful Victorian women and stern, respectable men of industry. The contrast is very striking, and adds a depth of understanding to both the contemporary piece as well that the works of fine art.

Spooner's piece

As a touring exhibition, we will be given the opportunity to view the works in many very different contexts, evolving both our relationship with the pieces and the country's. There are more exciting things to come!

All photographs courtesy of the authors.

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