Gill Hedleyback

Writer and Curator

Spot the Gorilla?

Gill Hedley speaking at Site Gallery, Sheffield, in 2006

Did You Spot the Gorilla?

exhibition. at St John's College, Oxford, 

Sigune Hamann Did You Spot the Gorilla?, 2019


Freshers was the first project in Sigune Hamann’s residency working with perception and attention in the Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University, in collaboration with neuroscientist Professor Kia Nobre and her students. The project continued in workshops with a photo-based record of students meeting, one to one, on their first day at Oxford University, Waseda University, Tokyo and Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London between 2016-8.

The artist splits the image of students and re-assembles them into new interchanging narratives. Hidden in full sight are photographs of three portraits in the collection of St. John’s College.

Freshers exists both as a wall of images and as an artist’s book. Other artist’s books by Hamann give an insight into the way individuals appear in a crowd. Her book Fair’s fair, 2015-17, explores people looking, meeting and dealing at Frieze Art Fair and we will meet these people again.

The wall of Freshers is in counterpoint to a crowd of figure-like cylinders, Seeing being seen, which viewers can enter, move through and then, by exploring, read the entire image. Hamann’s work skillfully draws us into the work and involves us as participants, while constantly reminding us that the images represent a different context and time.

The vertical scrolls resemble advertising columns (known as Litfaßsäulen in Germany, after their inventor) and one stood until quite recently in Oxford Bus Station. The curved form allows us only at a hint of each image. We might simply take a glimpse and pass by or be prompted to investigate; we may recall faces from the book of Fair’s fair. The images appear again in a small-scale edition of the cylinders where images can be played with and re-arranged.

Opening out in scale is another immersive work is Filmstrips (20.10.2018), a 50 metre panorama which stretches scroll-like across the walls of the gallery, half of its length remaining hidden. The film-strip was taken at the demonstration last autumn for a second referendum. We are placed at the centre, observing, or we can walk along the length to activate, speed up or stop the image.

In much tighter focus, the original slide film for Filmstrips (20.10.2018), is set in a lightbox along with a new work. Did you spot the gorilla? is from a popular neuroscience video which shows just how selective our powers of observation and attention can be. Sigune Hamann and Kia Nobre share a curiosity about how our memories and expectations shape what we see. We hope First Sight will enable people to experience how perceptions and memories are very different to what we think.