If you are like me then the gallery experience can bring on intense feelings of impostor syndrome. When walking around the large spaces of white cube galleries I often get the feeling that someone is going to call me out for not knowing enough about contemporary art. This, however, is not something you will experience at the Hayward Gallery’s pop-up The Infinite Mix. Not only is the space the antithesis of a white cube (a black one instead), The Infinite Mix is an immersive, accessible and engaging exhibition that tends to defy pretension. The exhibition is curated by Hayward Galley Director Ralph Rugoff and features 10 moving image works that engage heavily in the use of soundtrack.
When I went to the exhibition on a Saturday afternoon on a whim with a friend we were greeted with a rather large or infinite queue that snaked round the corner of 180 the Strand. We decided to wait and ended up in the exhibition after queuing for 45 minutes. Despite the long wait I can wholeheartedly say that it was worth it. Upon entering the Store where pop-up exhibition is held we were directed by invigilators go straight down the corridor to our left into a small screening space. As those in attendance filtered in Martin Creed’s 2013 piece Work Number 1701 is screened. The work features an upbeat indie-pop song written and performed by the artist and is accompanied by a myriad of nameless individuals crossing a New York street in a variety of unconventional ways. The pieces glaring focus on movement, gesture and fun successfully sets the tone for a playful and at times garish exhibition. Once Creed’s work ends there is a slight amount of confusion from the audience as to where we venture next. We filter out into the reception where we entered and follow signs to the second room that features Stan Douglas’ Luanda-Kinshasa (2013). Luanda-Kinshasa stays geographically with New York, recreating a 1970s recording studio and the jam session of a jazz-funk band. The piece is created by Douglas with a complex process of editing and mixing to create a seemingly endless session. This work is perhaps the most musical with the creation of music and sampling of music acting as the pieces central themes.
The third room is the most physically engaging. Ugo Rondinone’s black and white THANX 4 NOTHING (2015) is screened on each wall of the square room and 4 monitors along the floor of each wall show the film from a variety of perspectives. To watch the piece you have to sit on the floor of the room and actively look at the different screens. Rondinone’s work shows beat poet John Giorno performing THANX 4 NOTHING, a meditative piece that looks back pessimistically on Giorno’s life. Ugo Rondinone’s work keenly brings focus to the introspective and philosophical points of the work. The spoken word of John Giorno is matched with the mesmerising interchange of black and white, which makes for dreamlike viewing of the film.
THANX 4 NOTHING is followed by m.A.A.d (2014) by Kahlil Joseph. The almost graphic simplicity of THANX 4 NOTHING is contrasted by m.A.A.d’s sumptuous imagery of Compton that initially seems like something out of a high production music video. The dual screen installation is a response to Kendrick Lamar's 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city and features music from the album. The installation features luscious images of swimming pools, tattooed bodies and other day-to-day activities. These are then intercut with home video footage from Lamar’s childhood, scenes of police violence and magical realist scenes of dancing at night. This film provides a compelling look at the African-American community and presents both a celebration and mournful reflection in Joseph’s complex vision of Compton.
The fifth film in the journey of The Infinite Mix is Jeremy Deller & Cecilia Bengolea’s Bom Bom’s Dream (2016). This is the first work in the exhibition created by a female filmmaker and also the first film in the selection to focus on a female character. The film is a surreal documentary that follows the strange adventures of Bom Bom, a Japanese dancer with incredible gymnastic and hyper sexual dance moves. The film has the feel of an internet meme with lo-fi pixelated edits and colour work. The film is bizarre, vibrant and fascinating but it left me with an uncomfortable feeling about the mocking eye that is cast over Bom Bom's narrative and her quest for success.
The piece that follows starkly juxtaposes Bom Bom’s mad dream. Rachel Rose’s Everything and More (2015) was my personal favourite with its almost psychoactive effect. Everything and More is narrated by US astronaut David Wolf as he reflects on his time in space and the sensory disorientation he felt upon his return. His narrative describes these unusual feelings that are felt during space travel and subsequent arrival back to earth. This narration is married with images of paint mixing and bubbling, fragmented images of a space training facility and the brightly lit faces of young revellers. As David Wolf talks of his disorientating experiences the visuals we are presented with take on new meaning, the paint becomes the sky, the training station becomes David Wolf's altered vision and the revellers appear distressed rather than jubilant. Rachel Rose’s work intelligently exploits our own senses throughout the experience of watching and passes on the disorientated detachment that Wolf describes to an unsuspecting audience.
The next three films were Cameron Jamie’s Massage the History (2007–9), Elizabeth Price’s K (2015) and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster - OPERA (QM.15) (2016). These three works represent the most abstract and fell slightly short of the other curated works. Massage the History is an erotic piece of moving image work that features it's participants sensually engaging with the furniture in middle class homes. The soundtrack to the piece is a Sonic Youth track of the same name. Initially the film feels like a Sexcetera episode feature on a furniture fetish. The images of sexual suburbia are then intercut with scenes of violent events which seek to confuse are understanding of reality within the film. Elizabeth Price’s K is a dual channel work that requires the viewer to use headphones to listen to the films narrated soundtrack. K discusses the work of fictional ‘professional mourners’ and combines a variety of visual media including a stop-motion moon and CGI animation. The film combines the pagan, ritualistic practices of the fictional mourners with the hypnotic paces of a CGI production line. Creating an enthralling yet stark piece.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s OPERA (QM.15) (2016) is the only piece within the exhibition not exhibited on a conventional screen. Instead OPERA (QM.15) is a holographic work screened onto a wall in darkened warehouse-like space. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster appears in the guise of legendary soprano Maria Callas and the illusion of the hologram is surprisingly effective. The singer’s hologram is presented 30 metres away from the audience making the illusion all the more real with the figures defining features difficult to discern. The piece is an impressive illusion but fades into the background amongst the other works and their bold visual imagery.
The final work was the biggest spectacle of The Infinite Mix. Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife (2015) is an exciting sculptural film to be viewed with the assistance of 3D glasses. Nightlife was shot over 2 years in Cleveland, Los Angeles and Berlin. The film is a meditation on spaces of memorial and creates ghostly animated images. The film has a distinct lack of human presence, providing a creepy fantastical atmosphere for the work. Like many of the other films in this exhibition Nightlife features a looped soundtrack possessing a hypnotic rhythm that stays with you for a while after the film has ended.
The Infinite Mix: Contemporary Sound and Image is an accessible, psychedelic and entrancing experience that exhibits excellent curatorial craftsmanship. It is highly effective and affective with sounds and visuals that will play on your mind for days after. It is also a free exhibition, which makes it even more brilliant.
The Infinite Mix is on at The Store on 180 the Strand until December 4th 2016.
All images from: http://theinfinitemix.com/