What do you get when you put together sound and image? As broad a question it may seem, as broad a range of answers you will get when you visit The Infinite Mix, Hayward Gallery’s major off-site exhibition located at The Store. Focusing on the ever-existing relationship between audio and video, the show, curated by the gallery’s director Ralph Rugoff, features 10 artists through 10 installations, with outcomes varying in both techniques and subjects.
Individual audio-visual installations are positioned in a sound labyrinth of sorts, embellishing the open-plan spaces of the Brutalist building at 180 The Strand. “It meant that we could allow ample space in between the different works, so a visitor isn't running from one piece directly into another, but has the opportunity for little breaks that can function as mental palate cleansers,” says Rugoff of the show's layout. Each artist used familiar parts of traditional film forms like documentary or music video and created their own unique discourse, a remix of elements, stories and emotions. As the curator puts it: “There's a concentration on works that deal with performance of one kind or another - including dance, music, poetry recital, or just crossing the street.”
The exhibition opens with Martin Creed’s Work No. 1701, a short video evoking the feeling of having your headphones on and imagining yourself as the star of a music video. It celebrates the human body through differences in movement of people with disabilities and their respective interpretation of the upbeat pop music street march.
On the opposite side of the technology spectrum (and the opposite side of the building) is Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's OPERA (QM.15), a holographic installation of the artist herself interpreting the classical diva Maria Callas through a lip-syncing session of arias by Cherubini, Verdi and Ponchielli. This is the point where the location of the exhibition plays a crucial role in the experience, for which we can thank the two-year refurbishment plan of the Hayward Gallery’s permanent home in the Southbank Centre. The hallways serve as a stage for Gonzalez-Foerster’s persona showered in red, hauntingly swaying about the stripped concrete walls while the spectator stands in the darkness — it actually feels like being part of a scene from a Nicolas Winding Refn feature.
In a similarly fantastical yet much more psychedelic context is Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife, located in building’s car park and serving as the closing installation of the show. Shot and shown in 3D, the film embodies nocturnal beauty of traumatised architecture and nature, all while a perfectly enthralling sample of Alton Ellis’ Black Man’s World pumps the audio track. The context goes much deeper than just swaying trees — Gaillard celebrates an important moment in history when Jesse Owens won the Olympic gold at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi-occupied Berlin through (literally) putting the spotlight on the German oak tree given to the athlete by the organisers. The tree now stands in Cleveland, as does the bombed statue of Rodin’s Thinker — another vignette in the video which contributes to its sculptural visual outcome.
Make no mistake, The Infinite Mix is not your typical moving image art show. This show is primarily about contrast and the harmonious tensions it creates between the subjects. Whether it’s sound and image, reality and fiction or art and life — The Infinite Mix makes you reconsider your daily ways of merging those elements without even noticing.
The Infinite Mix is presented by Hayward Gallery in association with The Vinyl Factory and features artworks by: Martin Creed (UK); Jeremy Deller (UK) and Cecilia Bengolea (Argentina), Stan Douglas (Canada), Cyprien Gaillard (France), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (France), Cameron Jamie (USA), Kahlil Joseph (USA), Elizabeth Price (UK), Ugo Rondinone (Switzerland) and Rachel Rose (USA).
Until 4 December, The Store, 180 The Strand, London, WC2R 1EA, Free Entry.
Text by Dino Bonacic