Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Serpentine Gallery, London
Art comes second to ideas in Roger Hiorns’s exploration of man, machine and mortality – and in the stop-start animations of Lucy Raven
There is a strong smell of detergent in the opening room of Roger Hiorns‘s new show. It couldn’t be less appropriate, or so it first seems. For the immediate spectacle is a grim gathering of anthropomorphic bodies, old and decaying, dangling by tubes from the ceiling. Carburettors, silicone jerry cans, plastic drains and rusty engine parts, each has some semblance of a head and spine. They look like invalids on drips, like gas masks attached to collapsing bodies, or disease-engorged organs. They look like death itself.
Or perhaps like near-death, for a constant spume of detergent froths from every hinge and crevice, slowly burgeoning and then pooling on the floor, like spittle or some nameless body fluid. And this detergent emits a pungent hospital smell. The mechanical world is slowly dying, despite the hygiene. Even the hospital equipment is on the way out: an x-ray machine lies defunct on the floor.