Since the Hayward Gallery closed its doors on Southbank for a two year renovation, there seems to have been a lack of exciting contemporary art projects in London. Nothing that has reached the enjoyment levels of Carsten Höller’s carnival of rides and automata has really happened; everything has all felt a bit serious amongst the large institutions of late.
But not being one to miss a trick, the Hayward have borrowed The Store, a brutalist icon next to Somerset House on The Strand for a pop up show – and the timing works perfectly as building works on the waterfront have provided it a temporary panorama of the Thames from its glass-walled exterior (especially enjoyable from the top floor bar at sunset).
In association with The Vinyl Factory, The Hayward have commissioned a new exhibition of 14 pieces of video art by some of the leading audio and visual artists around right now. Visitors journey through spaces that are conceptually immersive – varied screen sizes blast images amongst the pitch black as an exhilarating assault on the eyes and ears. Spanning 3D projections, holographic illusions and multiscreen installations, the works combine sound and moving image to captivate, are each is incredibly powerful. Notably, the videos feel selected because of their musical quality, and for once music, as opposed to sound, has been placed as an equal to the video by the curator. Each video contains a rhythm that profoundly effects in both its visuals and its sonics.
Highlights include Rachel Rose’s Everything and More (2015), in which the Frieze Artist Award winner in 2015 collages slow motion party shots from the night-time at an EDM festival, set in swathes of MDMA-fed colour, with a powerful gospel soundtrack and American astronaut David Wolf narrations on how incredible the earth looks from space. The works completely engulfs, as if a trip in itself, leaving one feeling in awe of the power of universe – surely the sign of a great artist.
Los Angeles based artist Kahlil Joseph presents a documentary about the everyday lives of African-American inhabitants of Compton, the Los Angeles neighbourhood famous for being both the birthplace of gangster rap and being a notorious ghetto. The work, set to a soundtrack of music from Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 album good kid m.A.Ad city, celebrates the landscape and its culture; weaving visual narratives such as swimming in the community pool on a hot summer’s afternoon, that complement Lamar’s stories of growing up in the area, set to his soul inspired beats.
Perhaps the show stopper of them all however, is the work of Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, whose work THNX 4 NOTHING (2015) broadcasts the 79 year-old legendary beat poet John Giorno across four large, and many smaller screens, reciting his 2007 poem by the same name. As he stands tuxedo clad and barefoot on a stage, the images in black and white flash to alternate in white and black with the rhythm of his words, in this dizzyingly grasping work. His inspiring monologue that muses on his life, achievements and impending death is equally profound and funny. It can’t be overlooked that a major part of the work’s greatness comes from the poet and his wordsmithery, but Rondinone’s genius lies in making the work spring to life – the visual arrangement is not only harmonious, but complimentary to the arresting nature of the work. It’s hard not to leave feeling moved.
Other works include Jeremy Deller’s special commission which documents a Japanese dancer travelling to Kingston, Jamaica to enter the world twerking competition, Cyprien Gaillard’s 3D forest collaged with the 1936 Nazi-led Berlin Olympics and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s haunting holographic in which he lip-synchs to opera by Verdi, Cherubini andPonchielli.
Every work in The Infinite Mix brings an experiential treat to the cavernous building – the magic of the show lies in the consideration by both the artist and curator to envisage the audience as not just a voyeur, but participant. As an amalgamation it’s a riot of colour, sound and image, synthesised as a experiential journey, solidifying the fact that video art can be one of the most moving mediums. It is possibly London’s best contemporary exhibition of the year; and it’s completely free. The Hayward has done it again.
The Infinite Mix: Contemporary Sound and Image at The Store, 180 The Strand, London, WC2R 1EA. 9 September – 4 December 2016, Tuesday – Saturday 12-8pm; Sunday 12-7pm. Entry Free. www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/infinite-mix