This is an exciting show. All of the work has been shown at the New Museum in New York: it consists of twenty-one film and video installations. The art is the same but the experience is different. Whereas the New Museum is full of light and air and a pleasure to walk around, 180 The Strand is a sprawling black labyrinth which is mostly underground and hard to negotiate.
BUT the work is stunning. It is experimental but the tone is both lyrical and often violent. It is about the power of images to deal with time and memory, desires and dreams, and fears which emanate both from the past and imagine the future. Everything is fast moving, which made it hard to photograph. But using the most legible pictures provides a good way of choosing what to mention. It would otherwise be an impossible task, just about all the work is so high class.
I remember feeling rooted to the spot when I first saw Happy Birthday by Ed Atkins. He talks about the ‘deathliness’ of the HD image: we watch a head rise up out of water,
then spewing out cascades of vomit, followed by the repeated padding across the screen of an avatar’s unjointed feet. There is something strangely tender as well as horrifying about the whole scenario.
Oliver Laric starts with images drawn from ancient cultures which are used to link the classical past to the digital present. For example his use of the statue of Hemanabis from the Vatican, a hybrid of the dog-headed Egyptian Anabis and the Greek god Hermes (image 2 ).
Like the supernatural shape shifting of Ovid in Metamorphoses the figures change and change and change again. The transformations are fast and fluid and hard to drag yourself away from.
The retro style and lurid colours of Wong Ping’s Jungle of Desire (image 3) take a little getting used to. We are told that the artist witnessed brutal police crackdowns during the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014. This story of a wife whom takes up prostitution because she wants to ends with her client policeman blowing himself up because of the magnitude and malevolence of his farts. Poetic justice maybe? It is clearly intentionally puerile but it leaves a sour taste.
Sex is also the major theme of Laure Provost, the French artist who won the Turner prize in 2013. Seductive images of flowers pour forth. ‘We are made of liquid’ runs across the bottom of the screen. Fingers pry into floral orifices. ‘It will be pure lust’. Nature becomes almost pornographic and it is heady stuff.
You need a lot of time to see this work properly. I spent two extended afternoons there and there is a lot I didn’t see. The show is on until 9 December but don’t leave it too late.