The Russian Linesman at the Hayward Gallery
Mark Wallinger has turned the Hayward into an old curiosity shop of liminality, says Jess Bowie
The Russian Linesman: Frontiers, Borders and Thresholds
The Hayward Gallery, until 4 May
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
He’s put Jesus on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, wandered around a deserted German gallery Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie in a bear suit, and has just been granted permission to erect a gigantic horse in Kent. Now, with a new show at the Hayward, Turner Prize-winning Mark Wallinger makes his first foray into curating.
Encompassing everything from youtube clips to Renaissance woodcuts, The Russian Linesman offers an idiosyncratic tour of art history, as well as the recesses of a modern artist’s mind. It takes its name from the 1966 World Cup final between England and Germany, where the linesman’s controversial ruling changed the course of football history. It’s an apt image for a show whose theme is thresholds, boundaries, and moments in time when things could have gone the other way. (In the case of the disputed goal, Wallinger tells me at the show’s opening, it was ‘definitely over the line’.)
These boundaries assume many forms in the exhibition, from Aeronout Mik’s montage of footage from Yugoslavia that news editors never used, to a corridor by Monika Sosnowska that takes you upside down and into the ceiling. Wallinger has amassed such a diverse collection of artefacts, The Russian Linesman feels almost like wandering round a Victorian curiosity shop, or some sort of niche, art-historical jumble sale. Through imaginative juxtapositions, he invites you to make comparisons across the ages: early Roman busts of Dionysus sit next to Renato Bertelli’s famous ‘continuous profile’ of Mussolini, and 18th-century trompe l’oeil paintings are set against the tricksy photographs by Thomas Demand.
Wallinger declines to choose a favourite piece, insisting that ‘the whole show is an extended artwork – that’s the spirit in which it was made’. Indeed, the exhibition is very personal, acting as a visual autobiography of Wallinger’s own influences and obsessions. Among a series of stereoscopic photographs is an image of a German studio during the Third Reich. It contains a giant sculpture of a white horse. I ask Wallinger if it’s the inspiration for his enormous equine ‘Angel of the South’. Thankfully, perhaps, the answer is no – the two ideas have ‘nothing to do with one another’.
On-side and over the line, Wallinger comes up with the goods