Turner Contemporary enjoys Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing

By Lucy Songi Published: 29 May 2013

Exhibition preview: Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing, Turner Contemporary, Margate, until September 15 2013

A photo of a stuffed walrus
The famous Walrus, usually seen at London's Horniman Museum and Gardens, has taken a holiday to Margate for Turner Contemporary's new show© David Grandorge
An insightful meditation on the nature of wonder, fascination and inquiry, this Hayward Touring exhibition from the Southbank Centre captures a world of artistic creativity and invention, abounding with human intrigue and our innate thirst for knowledge.

Works such as Nina Katchadourian’s kooky aeroplane toilet photos - where she dresses as people from various different eras in aeroplane toilets – produce humour within a show with a message of complexity.
Matt Mullican steps into the territory of attention and concentration, displaying a video of himself under hypnosis. He becomes increasingly interested in the objects surrounding him, including his shoes.

Brian Dillon, the exhibition’s curator of the exhibition, defines curiosity as “the desire to uncover what lies beyond our present understanding of the world.”

Perhaps nothing depicts this better than Gerard Byrne’s images of the Loch Ness Monster, which combine mythology and the curiosity of things beyond our understanding.

There is an underlying essence of childhood perception within this work, especially in the puppet-like images of Nessie the monster.

“It is about a desire to unveil what is actually none of our business,” observes Dillon.

“Like the cabinet of curiosities, which mixed science and art, ancient and modern, reality and fiction, this exhibition refuses to choose between knowledge and pleasure.”

Leonardo Da Vinci’s images of curious objects are among the more historic pieces on display.

And one of the most famous images of the uncanny, Dürer’s rhinoceros, was made by the artist in 1515 when, without ever having seen one, he drew this image based purely on hearsay and his knowledge of other animals.

As one of the most anatomically detailed images of the time, it proves how accurate an inventive, curious mind can be when enquiring beyond the realms of the tangibly present.

Curiosity is a compelling exploration of the ambiguous history and present meaning of wonder, attention and the urge to know.

  • Open 10am-6pm (closed Monday except Bank Holidays). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @TCMargate.

More pictures:

A photo of a black ink drawing of a rhinoceres from 1515
Albrecht Dürer, A Rhinoceros (1515). Royal Collection© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
A photo of a circular blue sea creature against a black background
Agate, Petit poisson, Mineralogy, Caillois Collection© MNHN - Patrick Lafaite
A photo of a paper mask face against venetian blinds
Jeremy Millar, Masked Self-Portrait (2008). Framed colour photograph in custom-made archival mount© Courtesy Jeremy Millar
A photo of a peacock with blue feathers
Thomas Grunfeld, Misfit (penguin/peacock) (2005)© DACS 2013
A photo of a sea octopus with tentacles
Rudolph and Leopold Blaschka, Argonauta argo (circa 1860-90)© National Museum of Wales
A photo of a colourful illustration of sea creatures
Philip Henry Gosse, Illustration for Actinologia Britannia plate I (circa 1858-1860). Horniman Museum and Gardens, London© Heini Schneebeli
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