21st September 2018 - January 6th 2019
The new Science Gallery, located at Guy’s Campus, is the embodiment of King’s College as a part of London: it showcases research and culture open to the public, with the open, shop-like window of the building facing London Bridge Station. The newly renovated building is clean-cut and modern, yet intimately brings you together with the artwork.
The Gallery is a department of King’s, and also houses around 10 “Young Leaders,” people aged 15-25 that influence and lead the community-based events in and around the space. Its main goal is to create a collision between science and art, targeted at a young audience.
There is no permanent collection at the gallery; instead, the gallery uses “seasons,” in which they exhibit collections based on a specific theme. This theme keeps changing over time, to match the fast-paced environment we live in, as well as to stay interesting to the public—there will always be something new to see.
The debut exhibition is called HOOKED: When Want Becomes Need. It focuses on the consequences of all forms of addiction against the backdrop of modern day society. It’s divided into four parts: Natural Born Thrillers, Speed of Light, Free Will, and Safe From Harm.
Natural Born Thrillers explores the reasons why people seek out new experiences: is it boredom? curiosity? Or are you searching for a way to numb pain, or forget a traumatic event? It invites you to participate and criticise at the same time, with works such as “No Change” by Kypros Kyprianou. Kyprianou created interactive piece that takes coins that you input and launches them out accompanied with curious sounds; it questions how we interact with gambling slot machines, while at the same time it invites us to participate in this same form of addictive “gambling.” Another notable work is “Sugar Rush” by Atelier 010, which critiques our consumer-driven society: the artist designed a table made out of sugar, and continued to pour hot coffee on the table until it broke down. It shows how in this day and age, production is sometimes designed to fail in order to continue satisfying the consumers and forcing them to keep buying.
The second strand, Speed of Light, focuses on the role of digital technology in our lives and its connections with addiction. It tries to make us aware of the addictive designs of digital media, games and apps. This part of the exhibition is displayed in darker rooms, which accentuates the use of light and art technology. HOOKED mainly uses technology in combination with art, as result of a blurred collusion of art and science, which leads to moving image becoming the main medium.
Free Will is the third part of the exhibition, and questions whether we possess control over the origins of our addictions. One particularly touching work in this section is “The Workshop,” a collaborative project by Dryden Goodwin, King’s Professor of Addiction Science Kim Wolff MBE, and various young people based at Oakhill Secure Training Centre. “The Workshop” is a silent film showcasing drawings that the children at Oakhill made, regarding their relationship to drugs. Goodwin explained about his work: “Every addiction has an industry, and the drug industry provides people, satiates their addiction. These guys were at the bottom of that industry, they were almost victims of that industry. […] We took on the idea that a drug could be a person, and that person can enter your life and change your life. Sometimes that person could be yourself. Sometimes that person can be a bad influence or a good influence on yourself, and lots of words, drawings and thoughts lead to the realisation that their lives have been changed by this person.” The film is intriguing, especially knowing the background of the creators of the drawings, and the raw emotions that radiate through them sometimes are stirring.
Another piercing work is that of Natasha Caruana, “Divorce Index and Curtain of Broken Dreams,” an installation piece consisting of a curtain of pawned (wedding) rings, contra posed to a video of a (newly wedded) couple visiting the UK coastline. Caruana discussed her inspiration for this work with me briefly. Coasts are generally seen as romantic places: whether that be for a romantic walk on the beach or even a wedding. Yet in Britain, the smaller towns on the coastlines have the highest divorce rates in the country. Caruana created a clever response to these facts, by forcing the viewer to push aside the “curtain of broken dreams” in order to see the calming visuals of the romantic coastline. The work isn’t as directly linked to addiction as others in the exhibition, but still deals with the effects and consequences of addiction: Caruana found out that the reason for the high divorce rates in the small towns were mostly a result of extreme poverty, which in its turn can lead to drug abuse.
The final part of the exhibition is called “Safe From Harm,” and it leads the viewer back to the starting point of the exhibition; coming full circle. Safe From Harm fixates on situations in which things get out of hand: when use becomes abuse and when diverting habits take over lives. “Threshold” by Daniel Regan is a confronting photographic work displaying the experiences of self-injury, a surprisingly personal work by the artist with stunning visuals. This part of the exhibition also strongly promotes help-lines for various addictions and health issues.
The Science Gallery showed off its enormous potential for the future successfully with an exhibition that’s accessible to both those who are more affiliated with science and those who are more prone to the arts. Its building is absolutely stunning and as open to the world as the gallery claimed it would be.
HOOKED is an intriguing, immersive first beginning of this international initiative based in London, and its topic and execution is handled respectfully and beautifully. All these factors combined make the gallery an appealing experience for students (and generally speaking, people aged 15-25), something the gallery had aimed for.