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This week's new exhibitions

Ernesto Neto, London

When it comes to whopping great art spectacles and interactive fun, the Hayward summer shows seem to have it licked. Past exhibitions have included a boating lake on the roof and giant, inhabitable bubbles. This year's looks no exception with Brazilian installation artist Ernesto Neto taking over the upper galleries and outdoor sculpture courts. Typically, Neto stretches sheer coloured Lycra over skeletal constructions to create womb-like tents in which dangling sacs are filled with spice. Imagine being in the body of a giant insect or an alien shrine and you're halfway there. In addition to winding through his famously pongy, gossamer caverns, gallery-goers will get to walk barefoot through a giant "nylon vessel", lounge on vast cushions, and submerge themselves in his "sculpture pool". If this is art as escapism, it seems an innocent one, inviting a happy tumble back into childhood pleasures with creative play and sensory adventures.

Hayward Gallery, SE1, Sat to 5 Sep

Skye Sherwin

Susan Stockwell, York

Susan Stockwell misuses everyday objects and domestic materials to enchanting effect. Past installations have included a map of the world painted with tea on teabag paper and a quilt woven from Chinese banknotes. Here she floods the nave of the church-cum-arts-centre with an intricate sculpture mass-constructed from four tonnes of computer components. Stockwell, while playing with themes of consumer waste, refers to the "toxic exquisiteness" of her hi-tech raw materials, hinting at the double-edged fascination her best work generates. There's an aspect here of simply putting contrasting elements together to see what aesthetic and metaphorical charms might arise.

York St Mary's, to 31 Oct

Robert Clark

Mick Peter, London

Mick Peter's art is overloaded – ingeniously so. The Glasgow-based artist's hulking sculptures might be plastered with concrete and gloopy white paint but they are not what they seem. Underneath the thick outer shell, what Peter has chipped away at is nothing but polystyrene. The excess doesn't end there. His sculptures take their forms from an unwieldy set of obscure cultural references. The starting point for this latest show, for instance, combines Gogol's short story The Nose and the set design for a modernist opera. Yet the work itself has a dumb physical presence, an "emblem of stupidity" perhaps, like the dunce's hat that appeared in Peter's earlier comic book-style drawings. These dense-looking creations belie a wry perspicacity. Weighted down by layers of materials and ideas, they seem to ask what artists can and cannot do, or to put it another way: what's the difference between a fool and an educated fool?

Cell Project Space, E2, to 18 Jul

Skye Sherwin

Nothing Is Forever, London

The nexus of the south London art map reopens its doors after a renovation programme courtesy of 6a, the architects acclaimed for their sensitive development of Raven Row last year. Its premiere exhibition features work by 20 artists, including pieces by British luminaries Fiona Banner and Mark Titchner alongside Americans Lawrence Weiner and Robert Barry. There's vivid colour in Austrian painter Ernst Caramelle's geometric arrangements and Lily Van Der Stokker's sugary, cartoonish works, while David Shrigley provides the jokes. It's all wall-based, with the work destined to be painted over and absorbed into the building's fabric.

South London Gallery, SE5, Fri to 5 Sep

Skye Sherwin

Cornelia Parker, Gateshead

Cornelia Parker's installations are dreadfully poetic, monuments to all that is vulnerable and ephemeral. She's the one who notoriously exploded a garden shed and suspended the spotlit fragments to cast spectral shadows. Here in an extensive exhibition of recent and rarely seen work, collectively enigmatically titled Doubtful Sound, she conjures an atmosphere of pained nostalgia. Sixty silver-plated instruments borrowed from a military band have been crushed flat, suspended in mid-air and lit with a single lightbulb. Her Bullet Drawings are bullets stretched out into wire like graphic trajectories. If this sounds like so much conceptual sculptural silliness, you need to experience the work in the flesh to garner the full power of its sensitivity and sadness.

BALTIC, to 19 Sep

Robert Clark

If You Can Hold Your Breath, Liverpool

The Ceri Hand Gallery has established itself as a venue of international distinction with its programme of often peculiarly edgy art. Accordingly, this show consists of recent work by contemporary artists, including Sara Bowker-Jones and Alex Farrar, who all, in their own curious way, deal with unresolved states and in-between themes. There are deliberate technical awkwardnesses and mistakes. Images are multiple layered, fragmented or obscured; films are stripped of script and character; and scraps of paper are fixed with masking tape.

Ceri Hand Gallery, to 18 Jul

Robert Clark

A Horse Walks Into A Bar, Manchester

Nine contemporary artists, including Mark Wallinger and Richard Billingham, treat the relationship between animal nature and humankind with the full degree of seriousness the age-old subject deserves, while at the same time shamelessly acting the goat. This work, in media ranging from performance to painting, is well aware of art-historical pitfalls, of the sentimentality and the mythologising. Instead we get mischievous and sinister images, perhaps befitting an age in which the interface between animal nature and human nature is more fraught with tension than graced with back-to-nature harmony.

Castlefield Gallery, to 8 Aug

Robert Clark

Whitstable Biennale 2010, Whitstable

This fifth incarnation of Whitstable's biennale confirms the Kentish seaside town is shaping up to be something more than a retreat from the cultural map. With a focus on film works, it boasts new commissions, talks and one-off events. Highlights include celestial works by Katie Paterson, including invisible black fireworks and a cosmology lecture and Adam Chodzko's decidedly earthbound revelations about local history. His "Ghost" kayak is kitted out with a video camera to record its passengers' journeys to Deadman's Island, a former burial site for those who died on Victorian prison ships. Meanwhile, Annika Ström park bench performances summon the spirit of coastal life.

Various venues, Sat to 4 Jul, visit

Skye Sherwin © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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