The Infinite Mix: Could This Be London's Best Art Exhibition Of The Year
The Hayward Gallery has teamed up with The Vinyl Factory in what may just be the most exciting exhibition of the year. This is the gallery’s only major off-site exhibition during its two-year refurbishment. The Store, which houses the show is a new creative space on the Strand located in an iconic Brutalist building. This innovative exhibition is open free to the public and runs until December.
The Infinite Mix displays some of the best immersive audio-visual installations by leading international artists ever compiled. Artists included: Martin Creed (UK); Jeremy Deller (UK) and Cecilia Bengolea (Argentina), Stan Douglas (Canada), Cyprien Gaillard (France), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (France), Cameron Jamie (USA), Kahlil Joseph (USA), Elizabeth Price (UK), Ugo Rondinone (Switzerland) and Rachel Rose (USA).
The artworks in The Infinite Mix engage us in ways that are conceptually as well as emotionally immersive. Visitors to the exhibition at 180 The Strand will journey through a series of spaces above and below ground, discovering hologram-like installations, multi-screen installations and cinema-style 3D projections, each of which foregrounds the role of sound and its relationship to the image. Except for Martin Creed, all of the works in the exhibition are being shown in the UK for the first time.
Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff describes the works, almost all of which have been made within the last three years, as "both soulful and audacious," their compelling back-and-forth between sound and picture drawing us into a conceptual and visceral engagement that will be amplified by seeing them projected on the walls of this labyrinthine building.
“Rather than being driven by linear narratives, these works are structured more musically and seek to engage us on an experiential level," says Rugoff. "At the same time, almost all of these moving image works draw on conventions of documentary filmmaking. Yet instead of trying to provide an objective record, they often pointedly remix our notions of the real and the staged. These major works ultimately present new possibilities for how the medium can engage us in exploring cultural histories, including the poetics as well as the politics of music and performance.”
The exhibition premieres two newly produced works: a new commission by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster featuring a stunning hologram-like projection of Maria Callas
British artist Jeremy Deller and Argentinian choreographer Cecilia Bengolea’s new collaboration Bom Bom's Dream (2016), a co-commission from Hayward Gallery and the 32nd São Paulo Biennial. This work will be centred around the annual summer Dancehall dance competition in Kingston, Jamaica, focusing on the participation of contemporary Japanese dancehall dancer Batty Bom-Bom.
The UK premiere of Cyprien Gaillard’s complex and mesmerising film Nightlife (2015) will be projected in 3D in the cavernous underground car park of 180 The Strand. Featuring unforgettable images of dancing gust-blown trees lit up at night in Los Angeles and a drone’s eye view of fireworks exploding over the stadium built by the Nazi’s for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Gaillard’s visually lush tour-de-force builds a multi-layered tapestry of references to history and racism in both the US and Germany. All of the imagery unfolds to the artist’s entrancing dub remix of a politically charged Jamaican hit song by Alton Ellis from 1969.
Internationally celebrated Canadian artist Stan Douglas explores the intersection of narrative, fact and fiction. In Luanda-Kinshasa (2013), Douglas presents a 1970s fictional jazz-funk band (led by jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran) in the midst of a recording session set in a replica of the legendary Columbia 30th Street Studio. The finely tuned sound mix contributes to the illusion that we are witnessing a continuous “real-time” session, but what appears to be a straightforward improvisation is, in fact, a fiction: a looping patchwork of edited and repeated parts, seemingly naturalistic yet blatantly unreal. In this imaginative reconstruction, Douglas also alludes to the cultural exchanges between Africa and North America during the 1970s, against a backdrop of anti-colonial revolution in Angola.
Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s THANX 4 NOTHING (2015) is configured as a completely immersive and technically dazzling multi-screen environment, presented on four screens. The work shows a 79-year-old legendary beat poet, John Giorno, performing his 2007 poem of the same name. Dressed in a tuxedo and standing barefoot on a theatre stage under a dramatic spotlight, Giorno delivers an inspiring poetic monologue with both passion and humour. Virtuoso editing, including a dizzying effect whereby Giorno repeatedly transitions from white tux to black and back again, enhance the propulsive character of the poet's meditation on life and death.
2015 Frieze Artist Award winner Rachel Rose manipulates sound and image through non-narrative collaging and layering. Everything and More (2015) mixes up footage shot at a space-station research facility, a vast crowd at an E.D.M. concert and low-tech galactic abstractions fashioned from household products and filmed with a slow motion camera. The images are accompanied by a soundtrack that sifts together wordless vocals by Aretha Franklin extracted from Amazing Grace using a spectrograph and a recording of the American astronaut David Wolf talking about the pleasures and perils of space.
French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has created multiple performance works over the past two decades in which she takes on the personae of historical figures, usually singers and actors. In her new, yet to be titled work she recreates a performance by opera legend Maria Callas, singing the tragic song Suicidio taken from Ponchielli’s 1876 opera La Gioconda, using a theatrical illusion that creates a hologram-like image floating in space. With the image veering back and forth between an almost corporeal solidity and a ghostly transparency, the artist’s performance as Callas evinces a haunting power.
With his ambitious two-screen video m.A.A.d. (2015), Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker Kahlil Joseph takes viewers on an intimate journey through Los Angeles’s African-American neighbourhoods, set to a disjunctive remix of documentary sounds and songs from Kendrick Lamar's 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city. Interweaving footage of neighbourhoods and intimate home video footage supplied by Kendrick Lamar, the work crosses the wires of music videos, amateur film footage, documentary essay and magical realism.
Similarly, music and sound have long been an essential component of American artist Cameron Jamie’s film work. Described by film director Harmony Korine as “the single greatest dance film ever made,” Jamie’s Massage the History (2007-09) explores a marginal cultural phenomenon: a style of private dance performance developed by young African-American men in suburban living rooms in Alabama. As Jamie’s camera shows the dancers enacting a provocative, sexually charged choreography with the living room furniture, the title song by Sonic Youth provides a hypnotic soundtrack.
Turner Prize-winner Elizabeth Price’s video installations use a dynamic fusion of image, text and music to explore aspects of social history. The two-screen installation K (2015) combines archival footage of country singer Crystal Gayle alongside images of a textile factory and on screen lines of text describing a professional mourning troupe. Blending the sound of electronic music with the rhythms of factory machines, whilst inviting us to try to watch, listen and read at the same time, K radically detours our habitual ways of looking and listening.
Filmed in a classic minimalist style, British artist Martin Creed’s Work No. 1701 (2013) shows a series of people with atypical gaits as each crosses the same New York Street. Some are clearly managing without their usual aids, be it a cane, crutch or wheelchair. But in their highly individual ways, they all make it across - moving, it seems, in rhythm to the sounds of the artist’s buoyant and propulsive rock song, ‘You Return’ that provides the soundtrack. Work No. 1701 will be on display at Southbank Centre, linking the two sites together for the duration of the exhibition.
Sean Bidder, Creative Director of The Vinyl Factory, says: “We are excited to be premiering these incredible, immersive installations at The Store 180 The Strand, a large-scale off-site space across the river from Hayward Gallery, whose similarly Brutalist architecture provides the basis for a unique experience that is truly immersive and radically different from a traditional gallery environment."
A public programme of live musical performances and events featuring the artists and musicians in the show will take place throughout the exhibition. More details to be announced.
A large format hardback book jointly published by Hayward Gallery and The Vinyl Factory, including original essays and interviews with the artists and photography from the moving image works and installations, will also be available on site at The Store and online via vfeditions.com and the Hayward Gallery website.
Photo: © P C Robinson 2016
9 September – 4 December 2016 The Store, 180 The Strand, London, WC2R 1EA