The Hayward Gallery – a Guest post by H’s Mama

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by my good friend H’s Mama. She has a child roughly Eva’s size and she writes proper academic stuff under her real name. LWAT takes no responsibility for her rogue photography or improvised sling-making. Interesting fact, fact fans – while on this expensive art gallery trip, she spotted the child that put the Toddler into London with a Toddler. He was on a school trip to the Southbank Centre and was “off in Roo-land” apparently… Anyway, enjoy her first guest post. I did!

H biscuit

I am not from London. Nor do I have a toddler. But I like cake, and days out, so apparently I am qualified to guest blog for LWAT Enterprises. That and the fact that I was already at the Hayward Gallery this afternoon, planning to see Light Show, when Kate got in touch.  Apparently the other qualification for guest blogging is to already have bought a ticket to something expensive and possibly interesting.

So there we were, on the South Bank. Me, and Baby H, and Ms B and her baby V. There were people everywhere. Especially in the Hayward Gallery. It was a 20 minute queue to buy tickets, and then a 20 minute wait until we could use the tickets. Baby V was very excited about the tickets. Baby H was very excited about the 20 minute biscuit break.

V tickets

I was excited about Light Show. I like art galleries, and like taking little H along to see interesting things in art galleries. A friend had posted pictures of her smiling baby in her buggy enjoying the exhibit, so I was optimistic.

When we got inside the Light Show, the first piece we saw was a large collection of hanging lights, gently glittering and flashing. It was Leo Villareal’s piece Cylinder II, which apparently never repeats the same flashing pattern . .  . ever. It was great fun for H to watch.

I should note that there is no photography allowed in the galleries, so if there are any photographs here, they were obviously not taken by us in the galleries.


Baby H and Baby V liked Cleal Floyer’s Throw, which is a spot of light on the floor that looks like a paint blob. If you are 9 months old and can just crawl, this piece provides a great excuse to crawl into the middle of the light/paint blob and then grab your friend’s face.

Close by are two floor to ceiling columns of incandescent lights, that gave out a lovely warm glow if you stood close to them. Even as an adult it was hard to resist reaching out to touch the warm bulbs, and we were very glad we didn’t have a toddler along.

A bit further on are two rooms, one black and one white. In the black one, a haze machine and a slowly shifting video projection make bands of light that appear to be solid (Anthony McCall’s Horizontal). You can walk through them, which feels a bit like being able to slice through reality. Ms B and I thought it was like going clubbing, or going to a weird art festival, although things were significantly different as we were carrying small children and no mind altering substances of any type were on hand (unless you count love, of course).

To go into the white room, you have to put on plastic foot covers. This is impossible to do if you are carrying your child who no longer wants to be in her stroller, even if you diligently do yoga as preparation for such moments. Inside the white room is a white box, with a white light in it (Doug Wheeler’s Untitled). It was not anywhere near as fun as the black room. If faced with the choice between black and white, ALWAYS GO WITH BLACK.

The next room (accessible by buggy lift, which was possibly more fun for the babies than any of the art) had a set of lights hanging from the ceiling that gave the illusion of people walking by (the lovely Exploded View by Jim Cambpell) – and an enormous queue of actual people lining the sides of the room to enter a gallery off to the side. We joined the queue, as it was nice and dark and baby V was going to sleep in her sling. Baby H of course, could not be convinced to sleep in her buggy and yelled for some time. The magic that happened last time was not in evidence here, and we travelled all the way around the room before being invited to come in and sit on the floor to view . . . .a pink rectangle.

Apparently James Turrell’s Wedgeworks V requires at least 15 minutes of sitting on the floor in a dark room for the ‘full effect’, which is pretty well inconceivable if you are travelling with a small tired person (and you’ve forgotten your sling). We did not get the full effect, and we told the other mamas standing in line (who had not forgotten their slings) not to bother waiting.

At this point I achieved a personal milestone of resourcefulness. I took the manky blanket out of the bottom of the buggy, tied the ends together in a reef knot (thanks Girl Guides) put it over my shoulder and plunked the baby in it. Instant sling! Quiet baby!  And on to the rest of the gallery.


Ms B and I both liked Conrad Shawcross’s Slow Arc Inside a Cube because the description talked both about female Nobel prize winners AND about Plato’s cave. Unfortunately the actual installation made us feel a bit ill since it featured a series of shifting patterns projected on the walls and a giant cage around a light in the middle. We then moved at speed through a number of rooms filled with colored light in the shades of Popsicles or fruit pastilles (depending on the viewer), which also made us feel a bit icky – though apparently this was intentional.

We took the lifts upstairs to discover another huge queue for Ivan Navarro’s Reality Show, which looks like a transparent Tardis with lights at the bottom, but we couldn’t face waiting again. We saw a few other pieces, and then at the end of the visit stumbled into the strobe lights of Olafur Eliasson’s Model for a Timeless Garden, which was a selection of small water fountains at adult-shoulder height. The strobe lights seem to freeze the fountains in time, so they appear as crystal sculptures, or ice, or glass – but the dark room is full of the sound of water and the sense of movement, which you can’t see. We loved it, and would have spent even longer looking at the 27 different fountains if we’d had time.

Unfortunately it was both school-pickup-time and way-past-nap-time, and Ms B and I parted ways, but not before we walked through two more queues. I guess it’s a feature of London life that anything worth doing is going to have a queue, but sometimes I think that people reckon something can’t be worth doing unless it has a queue. Happily, Baby H and I made it home, with makeshift sling, without waiting for anything more.

VERDICT: A big exhibit, and in that sense good value for money for the committed art-lover. But busy. Really busy. And maybe not very toddler-friendly.

More details here (official website)

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