Liquid Crystal Display review – a dazzling date with the mineral of the millennium
Source:theguardian Author:Hannah Clugston Date: 2018-09-29 Size:
Crystals are the millennial’s religion of choice.

LCD dreams … a detail from The Hidden Life of Crystals by Waad AlBawardi. Photograph: Image courtesy of Site Gallery 2018

Crystals are the millennial’s religion of choice. And not just because Lena Dunham likes to carry them in her handbag or because trendy skincare brands claim they improve wellbeing; crystals are at the core of technology, they are key to those captivating devices that cause minor panic attacks when lost or dropped. We cradle them in our hands, stare at them more than our loved ones and queue for hours to get the next coveted model.

Crystal obsession is not a new phenomenon. For generations people have collected them and marvelled at their shapes and shine; mystics have gazed into crystal balls and the study of crystal formation was central to understanding DNA. Site Gallery in Sheffield explores all of these avenues in its exhibition Liquid Crystal Display. Starting by acknowledging our current reliance on crystals, the exhibition delves into the technology and spirituality that surrounds these shimmering stones in a group show that is half art appreciation and half science lesson.

Hypnotic … SQUID by Anna Barham. Photograph: Carl Henrik Tillber/Image courtesy of Site Gallery 2018

It is the first exhibition at Site Gallery following a £1.7m renovation project that saw the venue close for 18 months. The new building is not only three times the size of the original space, but bright and streamlined, with a welcoming cafe at one end and a gigantic, double-height exhibition space at the other. The old exhibition room has been transformed into a project space for smaller presentations, events, activities and artistic experimentation.

Curators Laura Sillars and Angelica Sule had the difficult task of filling this giant, empty box in an engaging way. They commissioned artist Anna Barham to create a structure that housed the other 19 artworks, akin to a cabinet of curiosities.

Just as crystals form through the repetition of a rule or algorithm, Barham designed her Crystal Fabric Field around a bracket that would define all the possible forms the structure could take. The final work is a maze of brown MDF boards, fluorescent geometric brackets and corrugated plastic. It’s crevices and corners hold hold photography, video, sculpture and drawing.

Besides the moments of pure wonderment, the more complex scientific concepts

The journey through Barham’s hexagonal shape is mesmerising. Beginning with Jennifer West’s Spiral of Time Documentary Film where the film has been distorted by interactions with crystals, we see our reflection in Eva Rothschild’s dark and clear crystal balls, hear electrical currents being conducted through silicon carbide in Ralf Baecker’s Crystal Set and marvel at the dazzling colours of minerals under the microscope in Waad AlBawardi’s The Hidden Life of Crystals.

Sheffield is referred to in the display of Victorian critic John Ruskin’s mineral collection and in the selection of Blue John crystals from the local area. Living in Sheffield, Ruskin was concerned with the poor living conditions of the working people and set up a gallery full of artworks, books and crystals to inspire. The lasting allure of those twinkling minerals is evidenced in their presence here, out of the archive, entertaining a whole new generation of people.

Anathema, by the Otolith Group Photograph: Image courtesy of Site Gallery 2018

But besides the moments of pure wonderment, the more complex scientific concepts are harder to find without detailed curatorial guidance. None of the works have descriptions, so the only way to fully understand them is by buying the catalogue. A passerby might whizz round the gallery, see nothing more than a few rocks in a dark room, and get straight back to staring at that beautiful liquid crystal display on their smartphone.

• Liquid Crystal Display is at Site Gallery, Sheffield, until 27 January.

[Editor] 张艳

    Artintern