Stanley Kubrick has had an almost unmatched influence on cinema in his long career. From his first major feature, 1956’s The Killing, through to his last, 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick’s distinctive style, creative rigour, and varied subject matter led to some of the greatest films ever made. Without the likes of Lolita, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange or Dr. Strangelove, the world of cinema would be very different indeed.
And, at least according to ‘Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick’, the latest exhibit at Somerset House, so would the creative industries as a whole. Curated by electronic musician James Lavelle (best known as the core member of UNKLE), Daydreaming brings together 45 distinct works by artists in different fields, each inspired in some way by Kubrick and his films.
It’s the diversity of the artists, and the art, that’s most striking here. There are paintings, sculptures, short films, songs, multimedia works, and even a perfume, each in some way drawing from Kubrick. Stuart Haygarth’s PYRE builds a glowing tower of electric fires — giving off real heat — to dominate the exhibit’s first corridor, the perfect complement to Paul Fryer’s The Second Law, which shares The Shining as in influence, but adopts its frigid setting for a frozen waxwork figure of Kubrick himself.
Some influences are personal, as in Anywhere Out of This World, a short film written by actress Samantha Morton to reflect her own experience of first watching 2001 alone in a nearly empty cinema. Others are more oblique, as in Marc Quinn’s paired History Paintings, which share Kubrick’s interest in violence and colour, but seemingly little else.
Technology comes to the fore at points. Norbert Schoerner’s Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums is a clear highlight, a virtual reality re-creation of the spinning centrifugal living area in 2001; it’s as dizzying and disorienting as it is enthralling, bringing the viewer directly into the film. That sense of exploring a space dominates another of the exhibition’s best, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s Requiem for 114 radios. A collection of singers are individually broadcast to each of the 114 analogue radio sets in the room, some in harmony, some discordant, the soundscape shifting perceptibly as you navigate the room.
The commitment to Kubrick is astonishing, Lavelle even explaining that the physical structure, of two long corridors with rooms going off, is purposefully Kubrickian, evoking the long tracking shots the director often favoured. The whole thing is a multisensory treat, a testament to a filmmaker whose influence is as staggering for its breadth as its towering height, re-shaping the arts in every way.
Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick runs at Somerset House from July 6th to August 24th 2016, open daily 10:00 to 18:00, £12.50/£9.50 concessions.
Words by Dominic Preston