Review: Wonderchaos at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

My most recent review of the fascinating Wonderchaos (8 Sep – 6 Oct 2021) exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The exhibition by visual artist Kate Daudy and scientist Kostya Novoselov contains a variety of intellectual nuances which simultaneously challenge the nature of art whilst highlighting the rich opportunities interdisciplinary collaboration can yield.

Fig. 1: Archive room, featuring Kate Daudy, Sound Passing Through Circumstance (2021). Series of graphic scores/felt on painted kraft paper.

Randomness is part of human life. Our daily lives are embedded with seemingly random events which can create both delight and stress. If you drop a pile of photographs on the floor and stress may ensue from the chaotic mess, or a forgotten photograph may rise to the top of the pile to create unexpected delight.

Chaos is a word that can be used to denote randomness. Its definitions abound with negative associations: ‘total confusion’, ‘lack of organization’, ‘disorderly mass’. However, the exhibition Wonderchaos (8 September – 6 October) at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park powerfully leads us to question the nature of chaos, in both its positive and negative iterations.

The exhibition is the collaborative product of London-based artist, Kate Daudy, and Nobel-award winning scientist, Kosta Novoselov. Through various installations and other artworks, they argue that randomness is not as unpredictable as it seems.

Fig. 2: Kate Daudy and Kostya Novoselov, The Difference Between Before and After. Photograph (C) Jonty Wilde courtesy of Kate Daudy.

Rather unusually but with tremendous creative vision, sheep are featured throughout the exhibition; to be specific, those of local farmer Mr Charles Platt. The ability of technology to bring order to seemingly chaotic flurry is highlighted by Novoselov who has developed a facial recognition system for the flock [see Fig. 2]. Drone shots included within the film If You Want to Hear Some Music, Open the Window: Homage to John Cage (2021) [see Fig. 3] depict the apparent similarity and lack of differentiation between the moving sheep, yet individual headshots of the animals communicate their uniqueness.

Fig. 3: Still from film, If You Want to Hear Some Music, Open the Window: Homage to John Cage (2021). Film and sound piece by Kate Daudy with Alice Wade. Featuring performance by Steven Isserlis and Joanna Bergin. Photograph (C) Jonty Wilde courtesy of Kate Daudy.

Facial recognition technology is one example of how chaos and order are mediated through communication. This topic is further explored in Daudy’s first steel sculpture, P O R T A L (2021). The abstract pieces invite interpretation, forcing the viewer to manifest and order their own thoughts and project them onto the circular forms. The name of the piece itself refers to the artist’s study of the first written language, Aramaic. She became fascinated with how this language could provide a certain sense of order for its original speakers, which they believed enabled them to communicate with angels.  

The decision by Daudy to paint P O R T A L a rich egg-yolk yellow also contributes to these deeply formulated insights. The colour is evocative of the ancient Egyptian philosophies that inspired the work and recalls how ancient Egyptians worshipped the life-giving properties of the sun. P O R T A L creatively evokes these associations – for example, the depiction of the Sun God Ra with a circular orange-yellow disc above his head – to emphasise the potential of language to energise human connection.

Fig. 4: Kate Daudy, P O R T A L (2021). Mild steel sculpture. Photograph (C) Jonty Wilde courtesy of Kate Daudy.

Also in the exhibition is an archive room [Fig. 1] filled with fascinating pieces from Daudy’s practice, along with other interesting pieces which represent the work of leading scientists. The room contains a series of felt works inspired by the graphic scores of composers such as John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, and Iannis Xenakis. Daudy became particularly interested in the random methods used by Cage to create mesmerising musical scores. Accordingly, inspired by the beauty of randomness and the ability of music to penetrate deep into the inner workings of the mind, she produced a set of works to represent these ideas.

The exhibition is an exploration of visual philosophy. Its myriad features provide a wealth of ideas that cannot be covered in a short review. It is testament to the power of contemporary art to provoke questions about the nature of the world and one’s place within it.