Lucy Raven at Serpentine: Our favourite kind of screen time

We are absolutely loving the run of screen based installation art that is taking London by storm at the moment. First we were captivated by the cultural rollercoaster ride that is The Infinite Mix, then we found ourselves lost in the audible chaos of William Kentridge’s Thick Time at The Whitechapel Gallery. Now, and until mid February, the ever-intriguing Serpentine Gallery has transformed its central space into a cinema, embracing the shorter darker days outside and keeping us cosy with their winter exhibition.

New York based artist Lucy Raven is the star here, showcasing her experimental approach in her first UK solo exhibition, Edge of Tomorrow. Focussing on the marginal spaces at the edges of image production, the work uncovers the unseen teams converting Hollywood films to 3D in Chennai (The Deccan Trap, 2015), as well the painstaking process of breathing live into animation (As If I Had Actually Been To China, 2007).

The themes at play here might be a little complex for younger visitors, but that absolutely shouldn’t put you off. Outside of the strobe effects, there’s nothing to render this work unsuitable for them, in fact, it’s a lively assault on the senses, with the added entertainment of having to don 3D glasses to enjoy key pieces. Particularly enjoyable was the completely hypnotic and ever-so-slightly trippy repetition of RP31 (2012) and the brain-twisting Curtains (2014) which at times made uncomfortable viewing, giving you a perfect sense of monotony in relation to the task at hand.

In addition to the work that you will see in the day, by night the artist has curated a more formal Serpentine Cinema, which will play host to a range of screenings, from Hollywood features to short films and animations, all of which celebrate the progress that we have made in moving image technology.

Serpentine Gallery isn’t huge, so if you’re left wanting more, over the bridge, Serpentine Sackler Gallery is hosting rarely seen drawings, paintings and calligraphy by pioneering artist and architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). Although this work is perhaps less accessible, the scale is staggering and the opportunity to experience some of these topographic-style wonders through Virtual Reality is a big draw if you can be patient enough. Plus, what better excuse to spend longer in the vicinity of one of the most beautiful parks in London.

Serpentine Winter Exhibitions run until 12 February 2017
Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA
Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm. Closed 24, 25, 26 and 31 December and 1 January
Admission Free
Nearest tube: Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate

What’s nearby? Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain (open 10am-4pm), Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground (open 10am-3.45pm), Peter Pan Statue, Kensington Palace as well as a wealth of beautiful gardens and a lake full of ducks and swans!

There is also a family day planned for Saturday 11th February 2017.

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Reiner Ruthenbeck @SerpentineUK: Everyday abstract that left us all guessing.

‘It’s a giant pile of earth’ . It was a strong start.

There’s nothing better than taking kids to abstract art exhibitions where they can actually identify what they see. Sculptor and conceptual artist Reiner Ruthenbeck’s current exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery features just that, numerous everyday objects and materials presented in a way that challenges the viewer to find something new or unusual about their appearance.

And the giant pile of earth, was actually an ash heap, with two other neighbouring ash heaps, strewn with galvanised metal to form his Ash Heap series. We enjoy standing for a while, contemplating whether anything will pop out of the metal boxes that sit on top, making it look a bit like a mole hill or a rabbit warren.

We move into a passage way, pulling back a curtain to step into a pitch black room. The only thing that can be seen is a simple filament lightbulb. As we have in past exhibitions, we wait for something to happen. We stand there guessing what is to come. But it really is just a lightbulb. A single lightbulb in a pitch black room, designed to challenge the stark brightness of the everyday gallery. The pre schooler can’t wait to escape the darkness, but later, like some morbid obsession, she names it as her favourite bit.

We walk past a suitcase merrily playing a composition by the Fluxus experimental musician, Henning Christiansen. The next room is full of interesting exhibits, the most fascinating of which is two intertwined ladders. After our morning visit to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, my little one takes some convincing not to climb them. They remind us of the magic rings trick that we received in our Christmas crackers, and we try to work out how on earth you would separate them.

Evie: ‘Mum, look at this, quick!’. I head into the last room.

Me: ‘You didn’t knock all those chairs over did you Evie?’.

The gallery attendant smiles.

Evie: ‘It’s just a pile of papers and some chairs’.

She’s not wrong.

We seem to be frequenting these very installation based exhibitions at the moment, but Ruthenbeck’s work is particularly refreshing as it is as everyday as you can get. Rather than trying to guess what we are looking at from the beginning, or me having to pretend that I know, it’s evident. Instead, the guessing comes later as we review what else we can see, what we would like to see and what (if anything) the artist is trying to tell us. It’s all good fun.

I look around and the toddler is fast asleep in her buggy. I feel sad that she’s missed out, but on this occasion, it’s probably for the best. With so many familiar objects and items, we might have seen more than just a few chairs that needed tidying up.

Reiner Ruthenbeck is at the Serpentine Gallery until 15th February 2015. Admission free.

Nearby: Rain or shine you’re in a fantastic location to make a day of it. 

Shine: Indulge the kids with a few installations of a different nature at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. Set within the beautiful Kensington Gardens, the playground features everything from a life size pirate ship to colourful tipis and giant totem poles. Admission free. 

Rain: Less than 15 mins walk away is the superb Launchpad at the Science Museum, where curious children of all ages can explore over 50 hands-on exhibits from the world of Physics. From making water freeze, to thermal imaging and bouncing light. Recommended age 8 to 14 (but youngsters will love it too). Under 12s must be accompanied by an adult. Admission free (Recommended donation £5)