The Freudian Mind Is a Busy Place. Better to Keep It Simple

By Darwent, Charles | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), June 28, 2009 | Go to article overview
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The Freudian Mind Is a Busy Place. Better to Keep It Simple


Darwent, Charles, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


Visual Art Walking in My Mind Hayward Gallery LONDON

Of the many triumphs of Sigmund Freud, perhaps the greatest is his Gaul-like division of the mind into three parts, id, ego and super-ego. Freud's model is so catchy because it is so simple - a trio of interconnected chambers, their interrelations shown as if by arrows. And if it's easy to picture the Freudian psyche graphically, it's even easier to do so sculpturally. Imagine an exhibition titled Walking in My Mind and you might come up with a series of stroll- through installations, their bits and bobs drawn from The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. In this regard at least, a new show at the Hayward Gallery does not disappoint.

The blurb says Walking in My Mind is "an expedition into the mysterious mental processes of creativity" (unlike, say, the Sistine Chapel ceiling). Instead of merely being creative, the 10 artists in the show are creative about their own creating, a circularity that may call to mind the sin of Onan. Each has made a walk-through mindscape, a psychic self-portrait in the form of an installation. That, at least, is how the curators want us to see the works.

I'm not a big fan of maximal art, the kind that conjures up complexity by being very complex. Take Jason Rhoades's The Creation Myth. Visitors will tumble over each other to see this, largely because of a sign that warns of lewd content. (Prepare to be disappointed.) The Freudian mind is a busy place, and The Creation Myth is commensurately busy, with tables, chairs, TVs, plastic buckets labelled The Prick, The Grey Matter, etc, machinery, cardboard turds, laser prints of porn magazines, a toy train trundling around with a draught-excluding snake on its back, and other mixed media. Sawn-off bits of cylindrical lumber imply castration complexes and there's a notice about Darwin to suggest that Rhoades, who died young, had read a lot. And?

Charles Avery's complexity is of a different sort, although it, too, is the point of his work. Avery's oeuvre consists of cod- anthropological specimens from a mythical island.

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