Hayward Gallery, London, UK


Mirrorcity exhibits the work of London based artists, themed by our living between two worlds – the physical and the digital, the real and the fictional.

Words © Mel Fletcher

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Curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, the title Mirrorcity came from the 1950 French film Orpheus by Jean Cocteau and text by J.G. Ballard – both of which has influenced the artists featured in Mirrorcity. The curation of the gallery space fits well with these references through use of translucent curtains for wall breakers and semi open spaces leading from one artwork to another. All artworks in Mirrocity balance on the cusp of reality and tamper with our perception.


“There are certain themes…fictional documentary, the representation of outer space in relation to inner space, a sculptural approach to language…the line between the private and the public…the investigation of the close connection between this new space that has opened up and capitalism that is influencing that space” - Stephanie Rosenthal, Chief Curator, Hayward Gallery.

Anne Hardy
Unity, 2009
diasec mounted c-type print
© Anne Hardy, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

Mirrorcity brings together sculpture, print, drawing, video, sound, installation and live performance. The most intriguing performance is Tai Shani’s Dark Continent which is an installation of a dreamlike scene that can only be compared to that of a Giorgio De Chirico’s paintings and a futuristic version of The Wizard of Oz. The installation is cinematic with pale, pink pillars and feminine, fairy tale-like gardens. The narrator speaks on three screens in succession with dialogue of descriptive stories whilst 80’s futuristic style music plays along.


Entering the room of the installation is like walking into an indoor animal enclosure – a darkened room with the installation warmly lit behind a thick, glass window as the spectators peer in, even accompanied with a descriptive board informing us of what we are looking at. As the digital narrator speaks, women in the installation gracefully move within the theatrical stage set, each one wearing a mask replicating their own face. It begs the question “what is more real, the narrator on screen or the mannequin-like women”?


The title Dark Continent comes from Sigmund Freud who referred to women’s sexuality as a dark continent for psychoanalysis.

Upon entrance of the gallery is the spectacle Nowhere Less Now4 by artist Lindsay Seers – an upturned steel model of HMS London, a decommissioned warship. Inside the huge vessel is Seers’ installation – two large spheres, one everted and one inverted, positioned one above the other, both with projected short videos of documentary snippets, recorded scenes and 3D digital images.

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Tai Shani
Dark Continent, 2014 © the artist, 2014 Courtesy the artist

(*Performance Piece)

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Lindsay Seers
Nowhere Less Now, 2012
© the artist, 2014
Commissioned by Artangel; Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart, Australia; Sarjah Art Foundation, Sarjah, UAE. Courtesy the artist and Matt’s Gallery, London

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The stories in the videos are fragmented with multiple narrators, each video sometimes merging, mirroring or playing out of sequence with the paired sphere. As each story comes to its dramatic finale the music quickens in pace like an epic movie trailer. One cannot help but be overwhelmed with both the visual and audio information, attempting to decipher their meanings.


Seers’ piece brings together coincidences and connections in history, one of which is her great-great-uncle George who was a seaman in Zanzibar. The stories become more complex with dialogue and imagery of psychosis and moments in history that could have been altered.


Given after leaving the installation is a book written by the artist with extensive research about all the connections Seers’ made with annotations and notes.

There are two artists whose drawings at Mirrocity are both elegantly detailed and subtly overpowering. One of which is Emma McNally’s Choral Fields 1-6. Her large-scale graphite drawings are meticulously drawn with subjects from as small as circuit boards to as large as flight paths. Impressive as they are, all of McNally’s drawings come from her imagination.


“They are created from carbon – basic ‘matter’ which, like water, is vital for our existence.” - Emma McNally.


The other impressive drawing at Mirrorcity is Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq’s Black Hole III. Like Emma McNally’s drawings Ashfaq’s are made with graphite but used in a much more precise and less fluid manner. His work takes geometric forms and is influenced by meditations on light and its absence. Starting from one central point each line is individually and precisely drawn to make the whole of the geometric shape, with no room for the white fabriano to show behind.

Choral Field 1-6, 2014 by Emma McNally

© the artist, 2014

“The eternal quality of light and pattern shares a resonance with our understanding of space.” - 

Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq.


Fitting the theme of Mirrorcity some artworks stretched the boundaries of what is real and what is not. Novelist Tom McCarthy collaborates with artists featured in the exhibition and created his own Mirrorcity newspaper that has strange articles, reviews, weather reports and sports pages that at a glance, seems like an ordinary newspaper.

Also, outside of the gallery are stunt people blending in with the everyday – a woman holding balloons and two men selling handbags. Not responding to human interaction or making eye contact, the performers leave a disturbing feeling to the observer, like something isn’t quite right.


Overall Mirrorcity is an exhibition full of questions, uncertainties and sheer delight. What is more, Mirrorcity at Hayward Gallery exposes us to the cross over of spaces and only leaves us with more questions as to what is reality and what is not – which in todays world seems harder and harder to grasp.


Article written by Mel Fletcher

Text © Mel Fletcher 2014

Images © Hayward Gallery and the photographer mentioned


Artists featured in Mirrorcity:

Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq, Michael Dean, Tim Etchells, Anne Hardy, Susan Hiller, Lloyd Corporation, LuckyPDF, Helen Marten, Ursula Mayer, Emma McNally, Karen Mirzo and Brad Butler, Katrina Palmer, Pil and Galia Kollectiv, Laure Prouvost, Aura Satz, Hannah Sawtell, Lindsay Seers, Tai Shani, Daniel Sinsel, John Stezaker, Volumes Project, Neil Callaghan and Simone Kenyon, Katye Coe, Nicola Conibere, Charlie Morrissey, Florence Peake, Rahel Vonmoos, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.


Exhibition curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, Chief Curator, Hayward Gallery

Assistant Curators: Dominik Czechowski and Rahila Haque

Curatorial Assistant: Antonia Shaw

Curatorial Intern: Charlotte Baker

Exhibition Graphics Design: Studio Hato

Exhibition Graphics Production and Installation: Philip Miles

Exhibition texts: Helen Luckett

Hayward Operations Manager: Thomas Malcherczyk

Senior Technician: James Coney


Source: mirrorcity.southbankcentre.co.uk


www.melfletcher.com - Mel Fletcher - Mirrorcity

Choral Field 2 (detail), 2014 by Emma McNally

Courtesy and © the artist, 2014

www.melfletcher.com - Mel Fletcher - Mirrorcity

Black Hole III, 2012-13 by Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq © the artist

Image © Damian Griffiths