Big Bad World

I'm afraid. So are you. There's definitely something in the woodshed, and we can only hope it's not an old man with a white beard, sandals, a faint smell of fish and a gun.

Julian Barnes' new memoir/essay, Nothing To Be Frightened Of, shows that it's life, not extinction, that gives panic its power. That kvetching kid Hamlet got it all wrong. We don't dread the dreams that may come post-mortal coil, but the ones that haunt us now. And if you want to go down to the woods today and give yourself the creeps, pop on a Miu Miu red cape and drop into MOMA Oxford.

In theory, Katie Paterson's installation - a wall-mounted halogen mobile number that connects to an underwater microphone recording the sound of icebergs sheering from the glaciar in Vatnajokull lagoon - sounds wearily concept-heavy, but the experience is actually startlingly, stirringly sad. The plaintive death-gurgle sounds shockingly familiar: bloody, breathy and blue. Give it a ring.

Romanian artist Mircea Cantor's The Need for Uncertainty is similarly, stealthily disturbing. An arching nest of gilded cages, housing two real peacocks, supercilious and shitting, sprouts from a dirt floor. Overhead is a suspended flying carpet, hand-woven with emblems of aeroplanes and angels; on the wall is a large photograph of a tree, a spiky wooden symbol exploding from within its trunk, scattering sawdust blood over a witchy forest floor. These are mysterious, pan-cultural talismans of nature's fairy-tale fantasy and dread, and they are exhilerating and haunting in equal measure.

In the words of fair Bill, the stroke of death is as a lover's pinch, which hurts and is desired. It's life that's the scary bastard.