Curzon Cinemas' regional manager and committed Stanley Kubrick fan, Ally Clow paid a visit to the new Somerset House exhibition dedicated to the mighty director. This is what he saw, in a waking dream...
Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick is a visceral, sensory experience of rich, enveloping images, of cacophonous sounds and smells that take us through temporal journeys of slow motion fire-walkers and spatial infinity mirrors.
The exhibition begins with it's most personal work, a tender portrait of Stanley by his wife Christiane made in 1999. In it, Stanley sits, occupying a small corner of their garden in Childwickbury, Hertfordshire. The artwork is a small and peaceful start to the epic that is to come.
Kubrick’s influence instantly appears in A Ω by Mat Collishaw, which places a human skull inside a space helmet with projections of primates on top. Indeed, some of the most successful pieces in the exhibition allude to Kubrick’s cinematic world. It's a place to get lost in, sometimes literally like in the The Shining-inspired maze layout of one of Somerset House’s 18th century west wing galleries.
Elsewhere, further installations make direct reference to The Shining. Stuart Haygarth’s PYRE erects a huge stack of electric fires that emanate a heat befitting of the orange glow of lights behind it, which follow Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s The Shining Carpet through the central corridor of the gallery. Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s Requiem for 114 Radios presents a collection of 114 analogue radios, each broadcasting a version of Dies Irae (a piece used in both The Shining and A Clockwork Orange) featuring a range of vocals from Jarvis Cocker to Beth Orton. In room 7, James Lavelle creates as well as curates, arranging two oversized stuffed bears in droog masks, canes and poses, the pair surrounded by pop-art Ritz cracker and Calumet boxes, all enveloped in a perfume entitled ‘A Space Odyssey’ by olfactory artist Azzi Glasser.
There are two stunning pieces of video art in the exhibition. The first, The Corridor (2016) by Toby Dye, projects across all four walls of gallery 8 where Joanna Lumley, a Barry Lyndon-era aristocrat, encounters Aiden Gillan and his double stumbling through a sparse corridor, all filmed in hypnotic slow motion, endlessly looping through space and time.
Infinity and repetition recur as a motif throughout the exhibition, from Doug Aitken’s Twilight in which a glowing white payphone is surrounded by four mirrors recalling Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms, to the second spellbinding video art installation by Doug foster, Beyond The Infinite. This piece takes Kubrick’s Stargate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey and skews it into a 21st century CGI-scape so widescreen it’s easy to fall deeply into its evolving, repeating patterns. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most referenced film in the exhibition (The Shining comes a close second) with Norbert Schoerner’s Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums taking the viewer on a virtual reality trip round the centrifugal treadmill in Kubrick’s space epic.
Kubrick was among a small group of directors who not only created iconic art, but are icons themselves and many artists focus on the director rather than his films as their subject. Chris Levine’s incredible Mr Kubrick Is Looking is a flashing vertical strip of LED’s that reveal Kubrick’s face when you move your eyes from side to side and peer out from your peripheral vision. An even more playful representation of this notoriously demanding director encases his waxwork in a freezer, appearing like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining.
Mirrors and LED’s are also used in Haroon Mirza and Anish Kapoor’s Bit Bang Mirror (2016), a more suggestive take on Kubrick’s tropes with strobe lighting and oscillating rumbles placing you into a warped, school-disco-on-ketamine daze. I don’t really know what that has to do with Kubrick but when I came out of the exhibition I felt a similar feeling as having watched one of Kubrick’s endlessly fascinating films.
The exhibition was a success, a lost reality, a daydream of Stanley Kubrick.
Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick runs at Somerset House until 24th August.
All images are credited to © Peter Macdiarmid/Somerset House