Hayward Gallery, in association with The Vinyl Factory, presents its only major off-site exhibition during its two-year refurbishment.
My flatmates were all at work on Saturday so I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to do something cultural’. After all, if I ever move back to Newcastle, I don’t want to look back at my London life and think ‘bloody hell I spent more time watching repeats of The Real Housewives than I did appreciating the wonders of our capital city’.
So, with my highbrow hat on, I made my way to The Store at 180 The Strand where The Infinite Mix is on display, an eclectic array of projects which celebrate and explore the relationship between audio and visual. The building which houses them is a massive, brutalist monster – the kind of formidable structure that is somehow just as charming as it is hideous. In the heart of London, it seems strange that it is (almost) empty, but this peppers the whole experience with curiosity. The inside is stark and warehouse-y, and arrows lead you on a path through corridors, stairwells and open spaces, stopping by ten different rooms with ten different exhibits along the way.
Each artist in The Infinite Mix presents an audiovisual composition which greatly differs from the others, yet all favour a non-linear approach coupled with a distinctive soundtrack, and all succeed in engineering a truly immersive and stirring experience.
The first room houses a short film called Work No. 1701, which is made up of people walking, one by one, across a New York City zebra crossing. The accompanying pop song (performed by the artist, Martin Creed) is jubilant, and ignites a feeling of celebration, an appreciation for people’s different bodies and the way they move. The journey is foregrounded over the destination, a theme which recurs through other works in The Infinite Mix.
My favourite room is the third – THANX 4 NOTHING by Ugo Rondinone is an installation in which you feel wonderfully encapsulated. I sat in right in the middle, and listened to beat poet John Giorno performing a poem written on his 70th birthday – an often hilarious, always nostalgic, beautifully cynical assessment of his life, remembering lovers, heartbreaks, and deaths. The installation appears on all four walls, as Girono stands barefoot on a stage in Paris, in a black suit which sometimes turns white. His delivery is enchanting; I felt warm and could have listened to him all day.
Other highlights include room 5 and Bom Bom’s Dream, the surreal fairytale of a plump Japanese dancer who travels to Jamaica to compete in dancehall competition. She is advised by a charmingly shoddy CGI chameleon, and her crazy dance moves are impressive and heart warming in equal measure. You root for Bom Bom, at first because she’s an underdog, but in the end because she’s fearless.
In room 6 is Rachel Rose’s Everything and More, where you can sit and listen to the fascinating recollection of a man reacclimatising to conditions on Earth after spending six months in space. His first words are ‘when I first returned to Earth from space, I thought I had made a terrible mistake’. His memories are haunting, intensified by the galactic display on screen made of milk, food-colouring, oil and water. There are shots of ecstatic festival crowds drenched in colour and when the screen goes blank, it becomes translucent, and the silhouette of the London skyline can be seen behind. Everything and More is beautiful.
The other rooms show us films about violence in Compton, to the sounds of Kendrick Lamar; they show us a hologram of artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster at the end of a dark corridor, miming the voice of legendary soprano, Maria Callas; they show the erotically charged dancing of young African Americans in middle class Alabaman homes to the sounds of Sonic Youth.
Often, I think I’m not the right person to enjoy something like The Infinite Mix. I’m worried it will be too hipster, or too posh. I’m worried I won’t have taken enough drugs, or travelled to enough places, or read enough 20th Century literature to understand it. This was different. I traversed the whole exhibition at my own pace, and I sat in every room for just as long as I wanted. The Infinite Mix throws up questions, but not all of which you feel you must answer.
My favourite thing about The Infinite Mix is it’s inclusion of different cultures, of people from underprivileged backgrounds, of people with physical disabilities, of people who don’t identify as heterosexual. The whole thing lacks pretension, which is essentially what I was hoping for.
I’d advise you to see this alone. I spent around two and a half hours in there, but you could go much faster or much slower if you wanted. I’m quite insecure, and if someone else was with me, I’d have been worried if they were enjoying themselves, or thinking about when they’d want to move to the next room. It’s that same feeling you get when you show somebody a film you love and spend the whole time worrying if they’re enjoying it as much as you told them they would. Or is that just me?
The Infinite Mix is at the The Store at 180 The Strand, WC2 from Friday until December 4. Admission free.