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  • Writer's pictureAshton Blyth

A research day in London

I started off the day with Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child at The Hayward Gallery. I'd known about this exhibition coming to London for a while, but with work and uni stress it had completely slipped my mind until suddenly it had a week and a half left, so I tried to figure out how to maximise the £70 train ticket by combining it with a west end show I've been wanting to see for my research that ends in June and I can only see a matinee of due to the time of the last train.

I'd seen a small selection of her work at The Tate Liverpool over the summer - not that I considered it a small amount at the time, but after seeing the collection that The Hayward Gallery had gathered for this show I revised that notion! I assumed this would maybe be one floor of her work, but it was both floor's filled even including one of her humungous Spider sculpture's. There were so many work's that I had admired online but not necessarily considered the scale of that blue me away, from intricately woven forms to huge, minimalistic wooden and metal sculptures - pictures certainly don't do them justice,

Not gonna lie, it's making me miss physically creating something with my hands. As much as I'm loving the animating, and I know I'll be really pleased with the end result, I know I won't want to stick to animation as my choice of medium forever. I still have ideas for installations, and seeing Bourgeois' work has made me want to work with the human form again.

My favourite piece to see in person would have to be the Spider. I saw one of her Spider sculpture's in Paris when I was about 10, not knowing just how much I'd come to admire and be influenced by her work in the future - I just thought it looked like Aragog from Harry Potter!

I think it's also my favourite due to the fact Bourgeois uses it often to represent her relationship with her mother. As someone who's recently come to realise they've spent their whole life being emotionally abused by their mother, and still is, it hit all too hard and I actually felt quite claustrophobic in the enormously large room with the sculpture, just feeling it's presence in much the same way I feel at home everyday.

This may seem like a random photo to feature as part of my research day, but the last time I came to the Hayward gallery in the summer of 2019, these toilets had signs on that said 'TOILETS' on the left and 'TOILETS' then in small print underneath 'with urinals'. I took a picture back then that I can't find it right now, but it's a shame that they seemed like they were on the way to progressive toilets and knocking them through as one big toilet maybe - I guess that was just while they had an exhibition on called Kiss My Genders about breaking the binary, and without that on why bother to change?

I also went to see Mike Bartlett's play COCK at the Ambassadors Theatre, starring Jonathan Bailey, Joel Harper-Jackson, Jade Anouka and Phil Daniels. This is it's second time in the West End after debuting in 2009 at the Royal Court Theatre with Ben Whishaw, Andrew Scott, Katherine Parkinson and Paul Jesson, where it won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.

The story is that of a man who, while on a break with his boyfriend, sleeps with a woman and questions his sexuality - his whole sense of self-identity really - when being forced to label himself and choose who he wants to be with and have a future with by the two people he loves. But I'll delve more into the story and the text and how I relate to it as a separate post when I've re-read the script and sat with it in my thought's for a little longer.

As a whole the play was phenomenal, it was 1hr 45mins without an interval and Jonny didn't leave the stage once - I really don't know how he did it! I related to his character in a way I haven't been able to relate to a fictional character before, and Bartlett's words and Bailey's delivery had me crying tears of laughter and despair throughout, I was a wreck by the end it moved me that much. They used lighting and contemporary-dance-like movement to shift between time periods as he tells the story of his discovery of falling for a woman and sex with a woman to M, it felt very current and modern. There were no props, ones that were mentioned were imagined, but you didn't feel like anything was lacking from just having these four talented performers on stage.

Considering I was there and I had a few hours until the last train, I went and saw the unauthorised Banksy collection, not really for research relevant at the moment but I've seen his work in Amsterdam before and can't help but love it. As an artist who must unintentionally provoke people by making work about LGBTQ+ people, I appreciate the effort that goes into intentionally pissing people off by confronting people with a lot of truth - so I guess he also unintentionally provokes people in a way, considering a lot of the provoked will be the ones who feel they are being 'unfairly' targeted?

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