A beautiful, brutalist building with views across the Thames, The Store is the perfect venue for an exhibition such as The Infinite Mix. Hidden away in its bowels and recesses, both above and beneath ground and through suffocatingly dark entrance passageways, large-scale installations envelope their viewers completely, the labyrinthine journey between them in the back, the industrial skeleton of the building an experience in itself.
Of the ten installations that make up the exhibition, all but one (‘Work No. 1701′ by Turner Prize-winning British artist Martin Creed) are making their UK premiere. Dispensing with linear narratives, the pieces seek to explore and experiment with the interplay between moving image and sound. Encouraging their audiences to reflect on the relationship between what they see and what they hear, they also raise thought-provoking questions on the very nature of the mediums themselves, mixing the staged and the real and deconstructing our notions of what constitutes fiction versus documentary in the process — ‘documentary is the creative treatment of reality’, and all that jazz.
Speaking of jazz, one of the standout pieces in the exhibition is ‘Luanda-Kinshasa’, a compelling, cinematic work by Canadian artist Stan Douglas, which features apparently documentary-style footage of an improvised 1970s jazz-funk jam session on a big screen. Throughout the six-hour-long piece, a camera circles seamlessly around a New York-style recording studio, the soundtrack seemingly matching the actions of the jazz, funk, and Afrobeat musicians it lingers on. In reality, the track has been remixed by Douglas, who has created a never-ending sequence of combinations between image and sound.
Elsewhere, tucked away in the cavernous, subterranean carpark below the Strand is ‘Nightlife’ by Cyprien Gaillard, a 3D film shot at nighttime over two years in Cleveland, LA, and Berlin. The LA section is a beautiful, mesmerising montage of shots capturing the sway of wind-blown foliage around the city. The footage is brought to life by Gaillard’s powerful dub re-mix of Alton Ellis’s 1970 political hit ‘Black Man’s Word’ and its 1971 remake ‘Black Man’s Pride’; the hypnotic, undulating movement and ferocious thrashing of the trees transformed into dance and woven into a complex narrative laced with discussions of race and history in the U.S. and Nazi Germany.
Though most pieces are UK premieres, two are newly produced and appearing for the first time: ‘Bom Bom’s Dream’, a fantastical, bizarre foray into the Jamaican dancehall scene by London-born artist Jeremy Deller and Argentinian choreographer Cecilia Bengolea; and ‘OPERA (QM.15)’, in which the sounds of Cherubini’s Medea, Verdi’s Traviata and Ponchielli’s La Gioconda float through the gaping darkness as you walk towards the eerie figure of the late opera singer Maria Callas, reanimated as a ghostly hologram.
Speaking of the ‘soulful and audacious’ exhibition, Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff said: ‘Rather than being driven by linear narratives, these works are structured more musically and seek to engage us on an experimental level. 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 Infinite Mix: Contemporary Sound and Image’ runs from Friday 9th September – Sunday 4th December 2016. More information here.