Yesterday we (les deux philosophes) went to the “Walking in my Mind” exhibition currently at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank. It’s a group show in which the connecting theme is the exploration of the artists’ minds either by the externalisation of their minds into an object or the internalisation of you into their minds.

The externalisation element typically led to collections that symbolised the contents of their memory or strange surreal objects that could only be created through justaposed thought-objects.

It was the internalisation element that caught my imagination. It didn’t always work. Thomas Hirschhorn, for example, created caves made from cardboard and duct tape that represented the four lobes of the cerebrum. It was a bit too self-aware. Yayoi Kusama created rooms of red polka-dot shapes that represent her hallucinations (she’s voluntarily resident in a psychiatric hospital). Interesting, but a little too one-dimensional.

But it was Japanese-born artist Chiharu Shiota (she now lives and works in Berlin) that made it work best.

Chiharu Shiota_After_the_dreamShe starts with a blank white room and threads thousands upon thousands of black threads into a complex spiders web of shapes that fill the room apart from the corridors of empty space that she leaves for you to navigate. In the middle of the room, suspended in space and surrounded by the black thread-web, she’d placed four formal and rigid white dresses back-to-back. It looked like a column of bridal dresses.

Again, you can  see the thread in her piece as shaping the rooms of the mind, neural networks if you prefer, and the suspended objects as memories.

All of this talk of  threads reminded me of a metaphor:

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

W. S. Merwin, “Separation” (1993)

But you can only speculate what it is about, what does it mean. It’s a dark obsessive piece, stunning and oppressive at the same time. Not one for anyone with a fear of spiders. I like spiders but hate walking into their webs.

During the Autumn, spiders build webs across the arch at our gate. I always have the same flash of recall exactly at the same just-too-late moment – precisely as my face meets the cobweb and I carry it away with me, the spider indignantly embedded somewhere in my hair.  It always seems to wait for me at exactly the 5 foot 6 inches or so from the ground where no-one else has passed. What I’d give for a taller postman or milkman to pass this way instead and end this recurring nightmare for me 🙂

Afterwards we went for dinner, mon ami philosophe et moi, and talked as we do. It was good and made me happy.

Nous pouvons être heureux, mais le bonheur n’est pas une marchandise. Le bonheur, c’est le partage.

Dead Can Dance – The Spiders Stratagem (Remastered)