The ultimate modern art installation: an empty gallery

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It is the exhibition that isn't there. Visitors to the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff find an empty space in which they are asked to remember their experiences of a gallery elsewhere.

"You are asked to summon up these remote spaces - through memory, body, speech and movement - so that they exist at two locations simultaneously, both here and there," the introduction to the show said.

The concept was almost guaranteed to prompt chuckles and grumbles from critics of contemporary art - and it has. But the artist, Simon Pope, 40, said the underlying purpose of Gallery Space Recall was entirely serious.

The project is part of a broader collaboration with Vaughan Bell, a cognitive neuro-psychologist at the Maudsley Hospital in London, aimed at generating a greater public understanding of psychosis.

Specifically, the exhibition recreates the symptoms of a disorder called Reduplicative paramnesia, a rare delusional belief that a place or location has been duplicated, existing in more than one place simultaneously, or that it has been 'relocated' to another site. The disorder is often caused by a brain injury.

But the show is also intended to further an ongoing debate in the art world about the nature and raison d'être of galleries as discussed in an influential text, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, by Brian O'Doherty. This was the work that was referenced by the dealer, Jay Jopling, when he named his gallery, White Cube.

Speaking from Cardiff, Simon Pope said asking people to remember walking around another gallery might seem "a stupidly simple invitation" but the responses were complex. The results were "like a ballet or a mime" as people gestured and walked, Mr Pope said.

And while some reacted as if "someone was playing a joke on them," Gallery Space Recall was effectively creating a condition similar to that experienced by some psychotics.

"I want to guarantee people see this as a serious bit of art work in the context of 40 years of contemporary art practice. I'm not doing this as some ridiculous, radical gesture to get into the press," the artist added.

The project has been funded by the Arts Council of Wales and the scientific Wellcome Trust's fund for arts and science collaborations. Training staff was the biggest cost.

Pope, who is a reader at the Cardiff School of Art and Design, will be following the show with a further project with Vaughan Bell at the Maudsley. They have just received the consent of the hospital's ethics committee to explore similar ideas in an experiment in which volunteers will walk a winding route around neighbouring Ruskin Park and then try to recreate the experience, eyes closed, in a straight hospital corridor.

A spokeswoman for the Arts Council of Wales said Gallery Space Recall was among several projects being supported by a £50,000 grant to the Chapter Art Centre. The exhibition runs until 5 November.

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