There is a certain irony on visiting an exhibition about addiction on the site of an old take-away food restaurant. The last time I stood under the shadow of the Shard I was in the empty shell of McDonald’s spitting into a bucket! (They asked me to do it, honestly, it was for an experiment). I hardly recognise the renovated space now, the barriers have come down from the smart Georgian Courtyard at the upgraded Grade II listed Boland House.
The Science Gallery is billed as a new cultural venue at the heart of King’s College London’s campus in London Bridge. A space where art and science collide, harnessing the expertise of academics, scientists and researchers and creating conversations with artists and young adults.
You could call it an effort to make science sexy. I cringe as I write that sentence as it marks me out as much older than the target demographic for the gallery which is 15-25.
The first exhibition in this new space is ‘Hooked – where want becomes need’ a series of installations that focus on different forms of addiction from gaming, smartphones, gambling, drugs and social media (sadly no junk food, I think they may have missed a trick there). Not just superficial eye candy, the artworks get us to ponder the nature of a society that leads us down the path of addiction.
It is topical and challenges stereotypes we see in the media particularly around technology with gaming addiction, which was listed as a mental health condition by the World Health Organisation earlier in the year to much controversy.
I have to be honest and say not all the installations really worked for me either in engagement or getting under the skin of addiction. But it may well be I am not the target audience for the show. I did however feel on edge seeing Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos’s work ‘Sisyphus’, it made me feel very anxious as tv monitors and screens displayed various power signals from mobile phones and computers. Sisyphus explores our emotional relationship with technology, their rise and fall mirroring my own anxiety it certainly made me query my own ‘unhealthy’ relationship with my phone.
‘Again’ – Lawrence Epps (2015) A customised coin pusher stocked with thousands of porcelain, terracotta and gold gilded coins that can be won and taken away or gambled and entered into a wager with the artwork.
Standout for me was ‘The Workshop’ by Dryden Goodwin, a visual essay combining drawing, photography and text. The collaborative project involved spoken word artist Mr Gee and theatre and drama director Angus Scott-Miller working with young people from Oakhill Secure Training Centre.
The project explores not just substance misuse but the cycle of violence, crime, addiction and exploitation that affects the lives of these young people and the communities they come from. I found this a very impactful film giving the young people time to think about and react to the influences and processes that had led them to take certain decisions in their lives.
The Science Gallery is a bold and different approach to engagement, science filtered, interpreted and presented through art. I think what will really help this come alive is the immersive experiences, live performances and hands on workshops that will run during the ‘Hooked’ season.
I am really pleased to see a group of young leaders working with the gallery to tailor content events I think these type of collaborative leadership roles are rare and will leave I hope a lasting legacy for the young people involved.
As art takes a back seat in the curriculum and schools seem to take a binary approach to science or the humanities it will be interesting to see where the Science Gallery will take those young people interested in blurring the edges. This new cultural space is certainly worth a visit to challenge your own views on addiction and society, I am looking forward to seeing what comes next.
Hooked: When want becomes need at the Science Gallery, London runs from 21 Sept – 27 January 2018 and is free to visit.
For a list of events please see the website https://london.sciencegallery.com/events
For opening times and location please see the website https://london.sciencegallery.com/
Guardian Review – Hooked 4/5 stars – Sex, drugs and social media, Jonathan Jones, 19th September 2018