The Russian Linesman, Hayward Gallery, London

Turner Prize-winner Mark Wallinger finds connections between his and other artists’ work in a highly diverse show

The blood-brain barrier exists to stop the grey matter from being invaded by unpleasant organisms, which means that Mark Wallinger’s head should, theoretically, be safe from critics. Wallinger laughs at barriers, though, so you’re welcome to stroll around his mind, this being the subject of the Hayward Gallery’s show The Russian Linesman. And since Wallinger’s brain is both large and elegantly appointed, the walk is long and lovely.

You’ll probably remember State Britain (2007), the protest wall Wallinger copied from one in Parliament Square and had rebuilt in the Tate’s Duveen Galleries. At the time, I’m ashamed to say, I saw the work as a piece of agitprop. It was that, too, but State Britain’s real interest was in the human preoccupation with boundaries. An ill-considered piece of Blairite legislation outlawed demonstrations within a kilometre of Parliament: Wallinger’s peace camp sat exactly astride that limit, daring someone to do something about it. State Britain got away with it by crossing other boundaries as well: the piece may have been political, but it was also an artwork. Governments merely have to be stupid to ban protests. They would have to be suicidal to ban art.

As with State Britain, so with The Russian Linesman. True to Wallinger’s modest form, few of the objects in the show are his own – apart from some stereoscopic photographs, only the mirrored Tardis, Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. Part of the Turner Prize-winner’s aim is to blur the boundaries between his own work and other people’s, between making and curating, art and non-art. To do this, Wallinger turns himself into an aesthetic Doctor Who, lighting here on a Dürer woodcut, made in Nuremberg in 1498, there on a piece of YouTube footage of the Indo-Pakistani border, made God knows where or when. There is no beginning or end to The Russian Linesman, and no indication of how you should go around it. As with the beliefs that underlie the show, there are no boundaries, no rules of engagement other than a willingness to make connections.

So here’s what you might do. Start with something that catches your eye – TV footage of Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the towers of the World Trade Center, say. Next to this is Dürer’s woodcut of an artist using a perspective machine. Five centuries of art history have taught us to see these images as irreconcilably different. Viewed through the optic of Wallinger’s playful eye, though, they seem surprisingly alike, the thin thread of Petit’s tightrope describing the yawing height of the twin towers just as Dürer’s dotted line spells out perspective.

From here you pass on to Amie Siegel’s video Berlin Remake. This is literally what it says it is – an earlier film re-made and projected alongside the original – although the title also suggests the remaking of Berlin. Siegel’s film shares German-ness with Dürer and with the next work along the wall, Thomas Demand’s Poll. But Poll is also political, and also a recreation – this time, the cardboard model of a Florida voting station from George W Bush’s contested first election. And Demand’s recycling, like Siegel’s, works on two levels. His counters and telephones are made of paper, but so are his electoral papers.

Where next? The choice is yours. Fred Sandback’s Constructions outline space with lengths of yarn, solidifying what isn’t there à la Demand. But also à la Elaine Sturtevant, whose Duchamp, 11 rue Larrey, next up, is an open door to a corridor. Which is like William Blake’s Death’s Door, which is like Dürer’s Saint John Devouring the Book, in being over-literal: Blake’s door is a door; Dürer’s visionary eats his words like a sandwich. Beyond these again is a lift door which (very funny, Mark) turns out to be a lift door. And beyond that … well.

There is no beyond that, or not in any usual sense of the word. As far as you can get, Hayward-wise, from Sturtevant’s corridor is another, oddly like it. This one is by Monika Sosnowska and is called, blankly, Corridor. Had Sosnowska seen Sturtevant’s work, made a dozen years before? Who knows? Who cares? The connections Wallinger hints at are about leaps of imagination rather than the marching steps of history – about the untidiness of time and space, their unwillingness to be ordered.

As you walk through The Russian Linesman, boundary after boundary falls before you: between now and then, here and there, two dimensions and three, surface and depth, art and life. The infinite riches in Wallinger’s little room are reflected back at you from the polished steel walls of his Tardis, so that every thing in the show has its equal and opposite anti-thing. You could stay a long time in the Time Lord’s head, potentially for ever. I can think of worse fates.



Hayward Gallery, London SE1 to 4 May (0871 663 2501)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy