Brought to London’s OXO Tower by artist Oskar Krajewski, the exhibition brings together work from over 40 artists. The setting complements the themes of the work exceptionally well; peeling paint on the walls and cold atmosphere indulges visitors in this gloomy vision of our world.
Upon arrival, audiences are left to fend for themselves, without the aid of a map or much signage to indicate a suggested route through the tower’s five floors. A guide would have been helpful to fully engage with the artwork that is scattered throughout one of London’s most iconic buildings.
The information accompanying much of the artwork left much to be desired too; most of the pieces were marked simply by a name scrawled on a ripped piece of paper in blue felt tip pen. Perhaps the budget didn’t extend that far, or perhaps it was an aesthetic choice, but considering that some visitors are paying £30 entry it would have provided the necessary polish expected of an exhibit at this price point.
In their mission statement, the exhibit boasts that it is for viewers young and old, but some pieces in this collection may well be nightmare-inducing for children and adults alike. Artist Alex Rose’ vision of a human-like life form on a platter invites audiences to inflate its lungs, breathing life into this bug-eyed alien. This is enough to turn the stomachs of even hardcore Studio Ghibli fans.
Despite the dark nature of some pieces, the interactive aspects of the space will most certainly engage all age groups. Right from the offset, viewers are invited to touch the silicone belly of an obese man on life support. This disturbing but intriguing feature was not explained by the artist, but raises important questions about global health problems in this new age of climate disaster. Soundscapes are dotted throughout the exhibit and can be heard through recycled plastic headphones offering an escape from the noisy Thames river outside. The ambience invited people to stay longer and reflect on pieces of art more so than rooms that did not have this feature.
Amongst the general doom and gloom, a reality check was needed. The environmental charity Greenpeace offered this reminder midway through the tower in a photography series assessing the impact of climate change on indigenous communities in the Amazon, as well as a virtual reality dome celebrating wildlife in the Arctic. The images included portraits of tribe leaders and offered a sobering reminder of what climate change looks like to people we don’t necessarily hear from in our daily lives.
Mars and Beyond is a timely collection of terrifying and macabre works of art, worthy of your time on a cold March evening - if you have the stomach for it.