Re:View – The Surreal House

The Arts


A house is not always a home. Sometimes it can be a bloody scary place to visit. The Surreal House at the Barbican Gallery in London makes concrete the tensions and disturbances we find in buildings, ranging from paintings by De Chirico, Magritte, Duchamp and Dali to footage by Jean-Luc Godard, Buster Keaton and Georges Franju. Here there are houses as wombs, houses as women (I’m surprised Warhol’s poster for ‘Chelsea Girl’ wasn’t in there), houses as haunted palaces.

The exhibition is best at evoking a sense of unheimlich – some images of how we view houses as extensions of our bodies are disturbing. The problem, though, is the size of the brief. Because the subject is a fascinating one, there are literally thousands of artworks, films and text passages that could have been included. The selection tends to the dry side of artistic appreciation; for once, this is an exhibition that could have been a little looser in its brief, ditching the over-familiar items to explore some stranger, more entertaining and surprising connections. The works are perfectly suited for this gallery, though, which becomes a surreal place in itself.

If you go, take time to walk around the Barbican and explore the bits you haven’t seen before. Refurbishment has meant that certain areas have astonishing views – I had to borrow a camera and am awaiting the cable to upload shots. I’ll post them here when I get it. The Surreal House runs from 10 June 2010 – 12 September 2010 at the Barbican Art Gallery.