The Alternative Guide to the Universe

Categories:
Somehow related:
Recent articles:

Please install Flash® and turn on Javascript.

Bring me home, please

0Letter Racer Set and White Letter Racer Set_detail 2.jpg
Rammellzee, Color Letter Racer Set, c.1988. And White Letter Racer Set, c.1991. Installation view 'Alternative Guide to the Universe', Hayward Gallery 2013 © Estate of Carmela Zagari Rammellzee. Photo: Linda Nylind

The Hayward Gallery in London has recently opened a fairly eccentric exhibition filled with the works of outlandish inventors, maverick engineers, self-taught architects, and other people whose imagination won't stop at the laws of physics nor at the rules set by society.

Contributors to the exhibition explore fictional identities and design imaginary cities; they build healing machines and record the unseen energy flows of our bodies. They speculate on mysteries of time and space; create devices for time travel and communication with other dimensions; and fashion new letter forms designed to liberate the alphabet from the strictures of Western civilization.

The Alternative Guide to the Universe is never dull nor predictable. And it is as much about artworks, models and speculation as it is about the stories and personalities of the individuals behind them..

0perdrizet28e842d_c.jpg
Jean Perdrizet, Untitled, Un robot ouvrier qui voit les formes par coupes de vecteurs en étoile (Worker robot who sees shapes in star-like vectoral planes), 1970

Take Jean Perdrizet for example. He was a civil engineer who lost his job because of mental health troubles. Around 1955 he became an "inventor", stretching the limits of physics, drawing and prototyping machines to communicate with ghosts or aliens. He also invented a language, the "sidereal esperanto" that enabled all humans to understand each other but also to communication with extra-terrestrials. His machines are lost, only the intricate drawing, plans and mathematical formulas remain.

0a0LEE GODIE_Lee970s.jpg
Lee Godie. Lee and Cameo on a chair...., early to mid 1970s © the artist. Courtesy Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection

0a9dogin9fba6_z.jpg
Lee Godie, Untitled

0GP photobooth42.jpg
Lee Goodie, Four Photos (Photo booth Portrait)

0GPselfportrait69.jpg
Lee Godie, Untitled Photograph (Photo booth Self-Portrait)

Lee Godie is the one who fascinated me the most. Godie was living on the streets of Chicago in the late 1960s. She called herself a French Impressionist and was selling her drawings and paintings on the steps of the Art Institute. So far, so almost normal. What makes Godie a star of the Hayward show are the theatrical self-portraits she was taking inside a photo-booth at the bus station. She'd bring along accessories, bits of fabric and other props to build different personae. She would then add bright colour to her lips or paint her eye brows in a Scouse fashion. Godie was thus doing theatrical self-portraits long before Cindy Sherman did. And long before celebs started invading twitter with 'selfies.'

0a0Ieugene173.jpg
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Untitled, 1940s

0i9eugenefe02a_c.jpg
Eugene von Bruenchenhein, from Untitled, 1940s. Photograph: Hayward Gallery/© 2013 Lewis B Greenblatt

0EUGENE VON BRUENCHENHEIN_Untitled (Bonnet)_1940s.jpg
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Untitled (Bonnet), 1940s © 2013 Lewis B. Greenblatt, all rights reserved. Courtesy Lewis and Jean Greenblatt

0EUGENE VON BRUENCHENHEIN_Untitled (Green Background)_1940s.jpg
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Untitled (Green Background), 1940s © 2013 Lewis B. Greenblatt, all rights reserved. Courtesy Lewis and Jean Greenblatt

The romantic in me is charmed by a self-taught photographer who sees his wife as his muse and takes thousands of photos of her dressed as a pin-up, wearing little more than cascades of pearls or donning christmas tree decorations on her head. Preferably against a rococo backdrop. From the early 1940s to the mid-1950s, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein documented the Marie's beauty but even when she is naked, the portraits have more tenderness than kinkiness.

0BODYS ISEK KINGELEZ_Mundial Isek Sport.jpg
Bodys Isek Kingelez, Mundial Isek Sport, 1989. Installation view 'Alternative Guide to the Universe', Hayward Gallery 2013 © the artist. Photo: Linda Nylind

0Installation view of works by BODYS ISEK KINGELEZ.jpg
Installation view of works by BODYS ISEK KINGELEZ at 'Alternative Guide to the Universe' exhibition, Hayward Gallery 2013 ©the artist. Photo: Linda Nylind

Bodys Isek Kingelez uses cardboard, candy wrappers and other materials found in the streets of Kinshasa to make what he calls Extrêmes maquettes (Extreme Models) of extravagant buildings and utopian cities. They look neither purely African, nor European, even when they bear the name of a European city. I wouldn't say that they are futuristic either. In truth, these buildings can't be assigned to any architectural movement. They are in a league of their own.

0RICHARD GREAVES_The House with Windows_2005.jpg
Richard Greaves, The House with Windows, 2005 © the artist. Courtesy Mario del Curto

0GREAVES_The House with Windows 2_2005.jpg
Richard Greaves, The House with Windows, 2005 © the artist. Courtesy Mario del Curto

Richard Greaves sculpts houses as much as he builds them. Like many of the artists in the exhibition, Greaves is self-taught. He never learnt to be an architect. Yet, his constructions successfully defy the laws of gravity. The cabins and shelters he erects in the middle of the forest in Canada are made from abandoned barns which he takes apart and rebuilds at his whim.

0RAMMELLZEE_Color Letter Racer Set and White Letter Racer Set.jpg
Rammellzee, Color Letter Racer Set, c.1988. And White Letter Racer Set, c.1991. Installation view 'Alternative Guide to the Universe', Hayward Gallery 2013 © Estate of Carmela Zagari Rammellzee. Photo: Linda Nylind

Rammellzee's graffiti and art work are based on his theory of Gothic Futurism. He imagined a world in which letters of the alphabet would arm and liberate themselves from the slavery and corruption of language. Made from found objects and customised skateboards, his Letter Racers are flying armoured vehicles poised for linguistic and galactic warfare. His style is stunning. Why had i never heard of him before?

0YULU WU_Remote Controlled Cart with Clothing_detail.jpg
Yulu Wu, Remote Controlled Cart with Clothing (detail), 2013. Installation view 'Alternative Guide to the Universe', Hayward Gallery 2013 © the artist. Photo: Linda Nylind

0YULU WU_Remote Controlled Cart with Clothing.jpg
Yulu Wu, Remote Controlled Cart with Clothing (Yao Kong Chuan Yi Xiao La Che), 2013. Installation view 'Alternative Guide to the Universe', Hayward Gallery 2013 © the artist. Photo: Linda Nylind

I guess everybody knows about Wu Yulu's amazing, rural robots. Using rubbish that he finds near his farm, Wu Yulu creates robots that do the cleaning, wash dishes, light cigarettes, or take him to market. The Hayward is showing the small robot that climbs a wall and a child robot that chases people (as Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Gallery and Curator of the show, pertinently noted, it's not a coincidence if a man from the country of the one child policy decided to build himself a little boy.)

I'm going to stop here because unfinished, unpolished, unpublished posts are piling up and i need to move on but in an ideal life, i'll find the time to write about Karl Hans Janke, the man who discovered the 'radiation-free German Atom'; Philip Blackmarr and his theory of "quantum geometry"; or Emery Blagdon who built a 'Healing Machine' from wire, copper, aluminium foil, Christmas tree lights, ribbons, beads, leaves, butterfly wings, magnets and 'earth elements'. I cannot vouch for the scientific soundness of their theories but i'm glad an art gallery has given them a chance to expose them to the public.

0Morton Bartlett_Untitled.jpg
Morton Bartlett, Untitled, c.1950s. © Morton Bartlett and Marion Harris. Courtesy The Museum of Everything

0i9danse2b78_z.jpg
Morton Bartlett, Untitled, c. 1950. Photograph: Hayward Gallery/© The Bartlett Project, LLC

0Installation view of works by MARCEL STORR.jpg
Installation view of works by MARCEL STORR at 'Alternative Guide to the Universe' exhibition, Hayward Gallery 2013. © Liliane and Bertrand Kempf. Photo: Linda Nylind

0Installation view of works by GUO FENGYI.jpg
Installation view of works by GUO FENGYI at 'Alternative Guide to the Universe' exhibition, Hayward Gallery 2013. © the artist. Photo: Linda Nylind

0PAUL LAFFOLEY_Thanaton III.jpg
Paul Laffoley, Thanaton III, 1989. Installation view 'Alternative Guide to the Universe', Hayward Gallery 2013 © the artist. Photo: Linda Nylind

0PAUL LAFFOLEY_The World Self.jpg
Paul Laffoley, The World Self, 1967. Installation view 'Alternative Guide to the Universe', Hayward Gallery 2013 © the artist. Photo: Linda Nylind

0Installation view of works by ALFRED JENSEN.jpg
Installation view of works by ALFRED JENSEN at 'Alternative Guide to the Universe' exhibition, Hayward Gallery 2013 ©ARS, NY and DACS, London 2013. Photo: Linda Nylind

If you can't make it to London, i guess that the next best thing is to get your hands on the catalogue The Alternative Guide to the Universe: Mavericks, Outsiders, Visionaries. It's on amazon .co.uk and .com.

0artbook_2266_1228596865.jpg

Alternative Guide to the Universe is at the Hayward Gallery in London until 26 August 2013.

Sponsored by:





sponsored by: