Institute of Contemporary Art: Keep Your Timber Limber (until 8th September 2013)

Anyone who has already seen Keep Your Timber Limber at the ICA, SW1, will know that it needs nothing for an introduction. As one of the most provocative exhibitions I've ever seen, this is not a collection for those who don't appreciate being shocked or moved. Surely this is what contemporary art is all about, pushing boundaries with media and to express the artists' views and concerns to the audience.

(I must admit my surprise was intensified by the fact that I had expected to see the Juergen Teller exhibit, which actually closed in March...)

Addressing the prominent social issues of sexuality and war, artists including Judy Bernstein, with her unforgettable 'F***ed By Number' project featuring American statistics from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Cary Kwok, with his equally memorable sketches of a sexually explicit nature. Honestly I don't believe anything I write here can do some of the pieces justice. They are certainly designed to shock, yet as a modern society it is certainly not the homosexuality that is startling, but the way in which the artists express their ideas to their audience. You can't help but feel that they are not being controversial for the sake of being controversial, but because they strongly believe in their respective issues and feel the urge to share this.

'F***ed By Number' is visually startling; not as a result of graphic images of the aftermath of war, as you might expect, but the feminist perspective of the artist. Replacing a gun with the penis form, Bernstein shows us how the millions of deaths through war have been the devastating result of the male inflated ego. As men well outnumber women in such positions of power, the 'expressionist' artist satirises the political decisions that have led to the massacres the world has witnessed in recent years. Her use of the phallus is consistent throughout Bernstein's exhibit, objectifying the organ, while it also features so regularly that the viewer cannot help but notice that male dominance is still rife in our seemingly advanced society.

For lovers of contemporary art, where nothing is certain and new boundaries are explored and destroyed through self-expression, this is a fantastic exhibition. "Thought-provoking" often seems too easy a phrase to describe art, but the selected artists ensure that your attention is on their cause, their pieces. This is not a collection for children; even the most discerning child/young teenager may be overwhelmed, so I would recommend visiting the exhibition yourself before deciding to bring a young person.


'Dick In A Head' - Judith Bernstein

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