London has so many museums and galleries, from the world-famous ones such as British Museum and Natural History Museum, V&A and National Gallery through to fascinating smaller and niche ones such Sir John Soane’s, Denis Severs, The Fan Museum and the Museum of Brands and Packaging – and so many more… However, we do love a new opening so we were excited to hear that after a couple of years of preparations, the Science Gallery was finally ready to visit.
The gallery is the flagship project for Kings College, part of the University of London (where my father studied many moons ago!) aiming to bring visitors into the building, to connect people with the content and really help them engage with it. They have mediators wandering around to explain and help visitors understand and interact with all the exhibits and get to know what the artists are saying through their work.
The Science Gallery has launched with a great exhibition called Hooked, exploring addiction and recovery and they are rightly proud that it is free to enter!
Hooked explores a wide range of addictions, some of which are rather close to home as it goes into the world of smartphones and how ubiquitous machines are now and how battery strength can be a major anxiety! They look at sugar, slot machines, consumerism, gambling through to more dangerous and illegal addictions when the joy turns to harm and there is no sense of choice. They look at what is termed the ‘gift of desperation’ to horrors of withdrawal and the pain that leads to recovery.
Big unknowns are explored – why are some people addicted and not others. Big moral questions around crime versus society’s problems. There are no answers, but the impacts are reflected here. The work is a mix of commissions and work which artists have agreed to show here and the media used is mixed from sculpture to video to photography to installation.
Here are a few of the pieces that caught my attention.
One of the most striking pieces is 2 large video panels representing our relationship with our mobile phones. The panels represent phones and speak to us, shocking us with reminders of the closeness of our dependency on these machines which provide the answers to all our questions. We don’t know the long-term impact of smartphone and addiction to life online is but Kings’ researchers are investigating this so watch this space.
To get the full effect of Yole Quintero’s piece try this link to a short video I’ve called ‘Listen to your phone’ to see and hear her rather creepy words about the love affair between phone and user!
A room called Sisyphus examines our endless search to power our machines and our anxieties when the levels drop – I’m sure we can all relate to that one! Just one image gives us the beginnings of battery worry…
What about the compulsion to ‘like’ everything? Why do we and what does it mean if we don’t? Jonah Brucker-Cohen double bluffs us to not like but is the temptation to push the big pink button going to be too much – 142 people so far have had to push…
The simple pleasures of life have their own addictions, even sugar gives us a rush and Atelier 010’s Sugar Rush both references this and our consumer-driven cravings in their installation that is designed to fail. It is made of sugar and has tea poured over it to destroy it and crash the crockery to the floor in a dramatic gesture.
This arresting image by Olivia Locher explores how cravings can lead to both pleasure and pain as the delicious ice lolly is covered with map pins as it seems you can’t have one without the other.
The section looking at Free Will explores our levels of choice over addiction. Within that was a beautiful piece Called the Divorce Index and Curtain of Broken Dreams where a film plays behind a curtain made up of cheap wedding rings. Natasha Caruana is reflecting on why coastline towns in Britain have the highest divorce rates.
We watched a powerful film, introduced to us by Dryden Goodwin and Mr Gee, set in young offenders institution which explores the effects of drugs. The group of offenders had been involved in drug-related crime and the films followed their involvement in a poetry and drama project to explore the sensory and emotional effect of drugs. The work was a stunning and unsettling insight into a world beyond my own.
The section on the painful path to recovery is told by people in recovery themselves through video, not easy viewing but an important part of the exhibition’s story.
The gallery is just by London Bridge, across from the Shard and is part of Kings College on the wonderfully named street Great Maze Pond. The interior is very modern which feels strange when you look out through the windows at the grade ll listed surroundings of the original Guys Hospital that forms the rest of the building. but it works well.
A great new addition to London’s museums and a bold topic to tackle as their first show, some fun, some thought-provoking, some sadness and worth a look. There is, of course, a great shop and a good looking cafe!
Check out their website https://london.sciencegallery.com/ for information about opening hours, location and any new exhibitions.