June 15, 2013 - Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre - Alternative Guide to the Universe
June 15, 2013

Alternative Guide to the Universe

Paul Laffoley, Thanaton III, 1989. © the artist. Courtesy Kent Fine Art, New York.

Alternative Guide to the Universe
11 June–26 August 2013

Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX


Alternative Guide to the Universe presents the work of individuals who re-envision the conventions of culture and science. In addition to maverick artists, the exhibition includes self-taught architects and outsider urbanists, fringe physicists and visionary inventors, all of whom provide bracingly unorthodox perspectives on some aspect of the world we live in.  Their work, while often conceived without an audience in mind, is publicly engaged in this sense:  its grand ambitions include reimagining our relationships with time and space, language and technology, as well as our notions of self and consciousness.  Their proposals and hypothetical scenarios, ranging in scale from the intimate to the cosmic, radically diverge from the well-trod tracks of consensus ‘reality.’  They include plans for vast cities of the future; diagrams that track unseen energies of the body and evolutionary networks of consciousness; and images that question our notions of ‘self.’  This exhibition is a guidebook, in other words, to a landscape that stretches to the far horizons of imaginative experience.

Besides certain overlapping areas of interest (architecture, technology, philosophies of time, communication systems), the different types of work in Alternative Guide to the Universe share affinities in approach.  It is often very directly ‘about’ something: it elaborates ideas or lays out plans in a specific, almost empirical manner. It formulates equations and records observations; it models theories of physics and language, or develops blueprints for urban developments and space stations.  And it generally takes a serial form. These practitioners typically explore their concerns in related ‘projects’ that embody overarching visions, long-term ambitions, and a deep and abiding commitment. 

Some of the speculative visions in Alternative Guide to the Universe rival the wildest inventions of science fiction—with the difference that these authors believe in the validity and veracity of all that they describe and propose.  This undercurrent of belief imbues their idiosyncratic ideas with a compelling reality of their own. Startlingly imaginative and persuasive, these works invite us into a universe where ingenuity trumps common sense and received wisdom.

Alternative Guide to the Universe includes work by Morton Bartlett, Philip Blackmarr, Emery Blagdon, James Carter, Jan Głuszak Dagarama, Lee Godie, Richard Greaves, Guo Fengyi, Karl Hans Janke, Alfred Jensen, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Paul Laffoley, Melvin Edward Nelson, Jean Perdrizet, Rammellzee, A.G. Rizzoli, William Scott, Marcel Storr, Ionel Talpazan, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Melvin Way, George Widener, Wu Yulu. 

Alternative Guide to the Universe is curated by Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery with a special physics section curated by Margaret Wertheim and the Institute for Figuring.

As a special added attraction Alternative Guide to the Universe features a display of The Museum of Everything in the Hayward Gallery Project Space. The Museum of Everything presents an installation of sculptures and films dedicated to visionary builder and sculptor Nek Chand, who has spent over fifty years creating his legendary “Rock Garden” outside Chandigarh, India, a 20-acre magical kingdom fashioned from scrap materials.

Alternative Guide to the Universe is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring new essays by Roger Cardinal, Rick Moody, Mark Pilkington, Valérie Rousseau, Margaret Wertheim, and Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff, as well as an anthology of writings on each participant in the exhibition.  

Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre
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