Text by Lauren Velvick.
David Shrigley‘s new solo exhibition, How Are You Feeling?, takes over the upper floors of Cornerhouse, to the extent where certain works are even visible from outside the building. Curated by Mike Chavez Dawson, How Are You Feeling? comprises a participatory journey into the artist’s world, mirroring reality with mordant wit, and offering advice along the way, whilst satirically replicating aspects of the self-help industry.
In Gallery 1 it becomes obvious that we are expected to play our part. The sculptures, props and video work on this floor nod to psychological techniques, whilst the ubiquitous silliness of Shrigley’s work emboldens us to write down our feelings in public, and to make loud noises. Many of the works boast therapeutic properties, and in the exhibition guide you will find instructions on how to ‘use’ or interact with them. For example, The Burden (2012), a comically immense rucksack which forces the wearer to bend double, is worn by gallery staff or other visitors whom you are instructed to ask about it because; “it’s good to talk about this kind of thing”1.
Up in Gallery 2 the walls are pasted with an overwhelming number of pictures. Given that a precedent for participation has already been set, this illustrated chamber is unexpectedly affecting, as Shrigley’s disturbingly accurate depictions of the human condition seem to return our gaze. This sense of being reflected and subsumed is amplified as the space unexpectedly tapers to a tight corner, absorbing the viewer in a superabundance of shame and foolishness.
A huge animatronic sculpture dominates Gallery 3, resembling one of the ugly men from Shrigley’s drawings, but in full colour and made solid. The giant is surrounded by an art-class set up, and here again you will find instructions in the exhibition guide – to make your own life-drawing which will be added to the many which already hang on the surrounding walls. On this third and final floor, the invitations to participate demand more of us; to your right as you walk in you’ll notice the empty ‘set’ of a play called Self Portrait, and a screen on the wall playing a performance of it, which a gallery attendant offers to turn off, if we’d like to perform the play ourselves.
How Are You Feeling claims to be a form of ‘art therapy’, and even though much of Shrigley’s work invokes humanity’s wretchedness, he also reveals the joy and unity in our ridiculous state of being. It’s rare for there to be so much giggling at a contemporary art exhibition and with the intermittent sound Gong (2012) echoing from gallery one, it can’t help but feel like the therapy is working.
HOW ARE YOU FEELING? runs between 6th October 2012 – 6th January 2012 at Cornerhouse, Manchester
Lauren Velvick is an artist, curator and writer based in Manchester.