Walking through the art in Aberystwyth


Last week, during a short break on the Welsh coast, we paid a visit to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Every time we are close by I insist on a day there. It is a fabulous venue with book shop, cafe, cinema and art galleries. I can easily spend a few hours there. Last summer I was much influenced by an exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe to the extent that I devoured Just Kids by Patti Smith that summer.

This time we came across a one-off interactive sculpture by Jenny Hall called 'Hollow'. This sculpture consists of a raised platform with a mirrored floor and a huge cave-like construction made up of cuboid cardboard boxes attached together by magnets. The cave-like construction was created to mirror a copper mine and the purpose of using cardboard boxes is that they represent displaced objects or ideas. The aim is to explore the creative destruction that is caused by construction.

On arrival in the gallery, we were advised that so long as we were shoe-less, we could walk on the mirrored platform and enter the centre of the sculpture. The only restriction was no climbing on the boxes. We were told that we could, however, play with the huge pile of boxes to the side of the mirrored platform. These boxes represent the 'ore' from the mine. So my three children and I threw our shoes off with relish and took this opportunity to explore an art work. We walked around, in, around and in and out of it. We loved it. The interesting effect for me was how vertiginous one of my children felt walking on the mirrored surface. As the large box-construction was reflected in the floor, to him it felt as if he was walking on a glass plane above a large drop of boxes on top of each other. He didn't like it and the only way he could move around confortably was on all fours.

What I liked about this exhibition was that it only contained two pieces. We didn't feel saturated by art. We only had two things to look at and explore in a huge art gallery. So as a consequence, we spent almost an hour in there walking around, looking, thinking, and building. The interactive nature of the artwork meant that we felt much freer than we might otherwise feel in an art gallery. We were able to relax and explore. Also, the act of taking your shoes off enabled this further. It felt slightly rebelious at first but then it felt normal.

Art should be about the reaction of the viewer, and in this case, the participant. I wanted to ask whether the staff had noticed any patterns with the way that different genders reacted to the pile of boxes they could move around. My three boys built a building, an igloo and then a wall.

So if you find yourself in Aberystwyth - go to the Arts Centre. There is always something there to see.

I also like to look at what is called 'The Box' which shows a piece of video art, and it shows something different every day.

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