It’s feels like a lifetime since our beloved Hayward Gallery closed its doors for two years of repairs and maintenance. Until it reopens in January 2018, the gallery’s mission is to focus on its extensive touring programme, collaborating with artists, independent curators, writers and partner institutions, to develop more imaginative exhibitions.
Continuing to fly the brutalist flag by setting up home within trendy creative space The Store, The Infinite Mix (presented in association with The Vinyl Factory) is one such collaboration. Promising a host of thought-provoking stories through large-scale audio-visual artworks, it sounded very much like our cup of tea. If it was anything like the free-to-bail-at-any-time yet all-encompassing-installation work of The Tanks at new Tate Modern, we knew we’d be in for a treat.
Friendly, forthcoming with a map and happy for us to abandon our buggy in the foyer; we were off to a positive start. There were a total of 10 rooms for us to get around, the first of which was presented by Hayward Gallery favourite, Martin Creed.
The entrance to this, the first work was so unbelievably dark, that alongside the other patrons, we found ourselves (unknowingly) hanging around in the walkway for a while. It was a very exciting introduction for all – believing we were already ‘in’ the work, but a few dark twists and turns later and we were greeted by bright yellow taxis and a corner of New York which formed the canvas for Work No 1701, 2013. Accompanied by a song penned by the artist himself, the work documents the unique body movement and gestures employed by a range of individuals crossing the same stretch of a New York street. It certainly was compelling viewing, wondering who might be along next and how – a guessing game of sorts and a perfect opener to win over younger viewers.
Having extracted my companion, we caught a brief glimpse of Luanda-Kinshasa, 2013; Stan Douglas’ endless jazz-funk jam. Brilliantly filmed as if you’re watching a live performance, this lively account was absolutely impossible to stand (or sit) still to.
The surprise hit of the day was Room 3, Ugo Rondinone’s THANX 4 NOTHING, featuring beat poet John Giorno. The rise and fall in the verses in this retrospective (and somewhat whimsical) ‘thank you’ poem, reminded me very much of everything I love about the lyrical delivery of a Cassette Boy creation. For my little one it was mesmerising. “He’s everywhere” she said, gasping at the giant installation screens and endless TVs. “And he’s got no shoes on” she continued, rolling around on the floor, moving consistently in whichever direction the surround sound seem to talk to her. We were well into the second run before I could persuade her to leave.
Thanks to a wonderfully astute gallery assistant, we bypassed Room 4 Kahlil Joseph’s m.A.A.d, 2014 and Room 7 Cameron Jamie’s Massage the History, 2007-9. If visiting with the family, you might want to do the same. The external signage might be a little recessive but these rooms contain visual content which is both violent and sexually explicit, and definitely don’t count as artistic immersion. Yes, you’ll miss some of the hard-hitting stuff, but with an abundance of family friendly content that can also feel pretty intense, you’ll do well to skip past and avoid the nightmares.
Some alternative views for family visitors are Room 5: the ever-so-slightly hallucinogenic Bom Bom’s Dream – if you lap-up the incredible music, graphics and bizarre chameleon, and ignore the (sometimes) inappropriate bumping and grinding, and the eerily holographic illusion OPERA (QM.15), 2016. Also awe-inspiring is Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife, 2015 which is housed in the final gallery of the exhibition, Room 10. Don the 3D glasses and sway with the windblown trees, before you exit to a well-deserved pat on the back for reaching the end of something truly outstanding, all with the kids in tow.
Billed as “a contender for show of the year” by the Evening Standard, The Infinite Mix certainly deserves the plethora of accolades that have been bestowed upon it. As an exhibition, it is a vibrant melting pot of all that is great and good when you bring together so many different artistic genres and stories, and tell them from the perspective of cultures far and wide. Plonk it in an incredible space, where even the wall-art in the stairwells has an impact on the visitor as they move around, and you’ve got world-beating art that anyone can enjoy.
We might have to wait for a year to enjoy the magic of the Hayward back in its South Bank home, but this assault on the senses has been a timely reminder of what we’re all currently missing.
The Infinite Mix is at The Store, 180 The Strand until 4th December 2016.
Tuesday to Saturday 12 – 8pm, Sunday 12 – 7pm