On show now until mid May at the Institute for Contemporary Art, From her wooden sleep … is a major new work by German-born Canadian artist/curator Ydessa Hendeles. Described by the artist herself as a “cultural composition,” the exhibition marks the first time Hendeles’ art has been shown in London. Curated by Philip Larratt-Smith and comprised of more than 150 wooden antique manikins from the artist’s own collection arranged alongside an assortment of historic objects, the exhibition casts a distinctive mood and presents the chance to browse the thoughtfully paused moment of an intriguingly situated tableau vivant.
As creepy as a room full of wooden manikins might sound (the collection includes pieces from the 1500s to 1930, from palm-size to lifesize), the tone of From her wooden sleep … is charming and even endearing. Or at least I thought so.
Maybe it was the resonate warmth of the old woodenheads? Maybe it was the artist’s and curator’s approach to how they placed the manikins as if in a class, or a church service? Maybe it was Debussy’s Children’s Corner played on continual loop? Whatever the case – and I realise there’s much heavier cultural pondering going on with this work – Sleep delightfully lulled me.
Along two parallel walls of the exhibition space are funhouse mirrors contributing to the show’s off kilter and out-of-place feel – but nonetheless adding another element which I found amusing.
As for the heavy stuff to ponder, I did – but in a reflective and subdued manner. Nothing about this show jarred or jumped up in my face. But the tenor of it stayed with me (and indeed still does).
From her wooden sleep … is on now and runs until 17 May at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, SW1Y 5AH. Entry to the ICA is with Day Membership, set at £1. Day Membership includes access to art exhibitions and displays, as well as use of facilities such as the café bar and free WiFi. Find out more at ica.org.uk.