The little grey cells

The Hayward Gallery has featured in these posts many times recently and with good reason — with consistently solid shows and some great curation they’re giving the Tate Modern reason to be worried. On the bottom level is Annette Messager — The Messengers, a show that I caught a couple of years ago at the Pompidou and has finally made it to this side of the channel. It’s a wonderful wander through Messager’s imagination.

From her stuffed toys and inflatable body parts, to her delicately arranged sparrows with their knitted bonnets, there is much to enjoy and intrigue here. My favourite piece from the show, Casino, was a very relaxing diversion — the gently undulating red fabric was mesmerising and I sat in the darkness and happily experienced the show a few times.

After Messager you should head upstairs the excellent The Russian Linesman — this show has been curated by Mark Wallinger and it’s another feast for your eyes. There’s some pretty diverse content here, and you’ll have great fun playing around with the different forms and media. Wallinger’s giant TARDIS dominates the main room, but there are videos and books, and strange little pieces of rock, and even a series of stereoscopic images set into the wall. Video of the famous tighrope walk between the World Trade Center Towers sits opposite Albrecht Dürer’s illustrations, and around the corner a series of Ronald Searle ink drawings from the Death Railway.

Aernout Mik’s footage from the former Yugoslavia is disturbing in its banality. Using extensive filmed sequences which were never used by the news channels, he reduces the actions of conflict to everyday moments as common as shopping or taking the rubbish out. Houses burn as soldiers sleep in the shade, bullet-riddled bodies are retrieved from the river, and snipers smoke cigarettes in between the occasional shot at some distant enemy. Everything is just so calm, so normal, so dull, so everyday, you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re watching footage of a brutal conflict — it makes it all the more morbidly fascinating.

Two excellent shows to get those little grey cells working again.