Everything At Once presented by The Lisson Gallery and The Vinyl Factory at The Store Studios
There is one more week to catch one of the most exciting contemporary exhibitions London has seen this year. Everything At Once is a collaborative exhibition staged by The Lisson Gallery and The Vinyl Factory at The Store Studios, 180 Strand. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, The Lisson Gallery, a leading name in contemporary art, is presenting work from 24 artists that it currently shows to create a multi-sensory immersive experience that is reflective of the streams of stimuli flowing from all directions that we are constantly subjected to in modern life.
The vast concrete space provides a raw industrial backdrop that amplifies the visual and aural presence of each installation. Art in all media and forms is on show over three sprawling floors and unlike the sounds and images that hit us in every day life, the creations here are at least given their own space to shine and be taken in one by one, whether it is in a room of their own or through the sparse placement of the pieces through the exhibition space.
The first room opens with some minimalist sculptural pieces by artist Richard Deacon. Created from glazed ceramic, stainless steel and laminated wood, his works have a fluid natural simplicity on the surface but on closer inspection, a greater complexity is revealed through hand-finished details such as rivets and joints.
Anish Kapoor’s “At the Edge of the World II” (1998) takes up an entire room. The artist, who has gained worldwide recognition for his large-scale installations, has created a giant hat that is suspended from the ceiling. If one looks up while standing underneath the hat, one’s vision becomes engulfed by the dark red hue of the hat’s underbelly. It makes for a surreal experience.
Ai Weiwei’s “Odyssey” (2015) wall-work leads us to his organic iron tree sculptures, “Iron Tree Trunk” (2015) and “Iron Root” (2015). In “Odyssey”, the Chinese artist and activist depicts the theme of mass migration and the refugee crisis through a repetitive motif of armies, refugee camps, warzones and people crossing land and sea. The wall seems never-ending and the pattern can be easily overlooked or mistaken for generic black and white wallpaper from afar. However, the illustrations, created in a style reflective of Ancient Greek and Egyptian imagery that documented the earliest movements of people, are disturbing on closer inspection, conveying the message that although, the horror stories are on repeat and the refugee crisis is an ongoing background discourse in the media we are constantly subjected to, we must pay attention because our own humankind are entangled in the details, uprooted like the sculptural trees that are lying on their sides beside the end of this wall, abandoned in a cold concrete room in the heart of London. The gold spray-paint that has been sprayed over “Iron Root”, while oddly beautiful, only heightens its incongruity in the space and the failure to cover up a sense of misplacement. Goldwashing does not make things right.
Dan Graham’s “Two V’s Entrance Way” (2016) is an inviting reflective installation piece that plays on the way people interact with their surroundings within buildings. The artist, who encompasses curating, writing, performance, installation, video, photography and architecture in his work, has created one of his most ambitious installations to date in this piece, which stands as a prism through which visitors are invited to challenge how they view themselves.
The exhibition takes a quirky turn towards the stairwell as one notices as strip of white paint emerging from the elevator that leads up the steps opposite in a clumsy linear splash. The white line is sloppy but purposeful. It knows where it is going and one follows the paint under the loud impression of Lawrence Weiner’s large graphic wall work, “Whole Cloth Stretched To The Limit” (2013), which repeats the words of its title over 3 floors, visible from each staircase. Weiner’s bold text works in vinyl or paint have appeared on walls in many spaces all over the world over the past 50 years. For Everything At Once, the artist chose to repeat a phrase like a mantra on every floor of the exhibition, aptly suggestive of the notion that it is bursting at the seams.
The white line leading up the stairs is in fact part of another artwork, which only becomes apparent on the first floor, where it finishes at a stopped painting machine. The humorous piece, entitled “Taking a Line for a Walk” (2008) is by conceptual artist, Ceal Floyer, who is respected for her ability to pair the imagined with literal every day situations and repurpose familiar objects as sources of surprise or fun. This piece plays on the German artist Paul Klee’s 1923 assertion that ”An active line on a walk, moving freely, without goal. A walk for walk’s sake” and is matched with a wall piece by Floyer, “Line Busy (UK)” (2011), in which a row of speakers blare out a country-specific engaged signal. This piece conjures up a sense of frustration – sounds that lead to nowhere playing over a line that leads to a halt on the edge of uncertainty.
Around the corner, four bright blue screens are suspended that project highly stimulating elements from a retro computer game that make up Cory Arcangel’s “MIG 29 Soviet Fighter Plane and Clouds” (2005). Indeed, as the title suggests, a Soviet fighter jet flies through a bright blue sky dotted with white cartoon clouds, somewhat trivializing the concept of war and violence, as is often seen in computer games. The four animations are in fact compositions from a hacked video game from the early 1990s and its modified cartridges and Nintendo console are also on display.
Around the corner are two wall works, “Solar Catastrophe” (2012) and “Shape Shifter” (2013) by Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla. The artists regularly highlight flaws in societal systems through a variety of mediums and “Solar Catastrophe” reflects the socio-economic forces at play in the artists’ native Puerto Rico. The piece is made from discarded polycrystalline solar panel cells, which are thrown out every two years and thus the piece questions the validity of this renewable energy source’s environmental credentials. The surface absorbs and reflects light, changing according to movement and atmospheric conditions. Also preoccupied with the theme of building, “Shapeshifter” was created from used sandpaper sheets retrieved from building sites around the world and simultaneously represents destruction and construction.
Projected works, “Freeing the Voice” (1975), “Freeing the Body” (1975) and “Freeing the Memory” (1985) by Marina Abramovic play out in an adjacent dark room. The Serbian artist, who pioneered the medium of performance art, expresses herself through singing, dance and language in this trilogy, pushing human limits of emotion, physical capacity and memory throughout.
Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s “The Black Pot” (2013) makes for a truly immersive and mesmerising experience. Mixing sculpture, sound and video animation, four wide black double-sided screens create a space within the visitor is subjected to Berg’s hypnotic electronic music and Djurbeg’s flowing colours, which appear in fluid forms and shapes out of the darkness. Shapes interact and merge, colours interchange and float across onto adjacent screens. The effect is magnetic and enchanting, quickly blotting out any sense of realities left behind upon entering the space. The emergence of this surreal experience apparently out of nothing is thought to be reflective of the primordial beginnings of life and consciousness. It is a digital story of creation, told through a contemporary art form.
Richard Long’s “Peloponnese Line” (2017) makes a striking statement along the stretch of the East wing of the 1st floor. The piece is in fact a large-scale mud work, applied directly onto the wall of Store Studios. The mural is minimalist in design but rich in texture and movement, with each clay mark being a result of the artist’s energy and the gravity and chance of this organic liquid medium.
Lee Ufan’s works, Dialogue (2017) and floor and wall installation, “Dialogue – Silence” (2013) are presented in a muted closed off space. The South Korean artist was one of the leading figures in Japan’s Mono-ha avant-garde art movement in the 1960s, which rejected Western ideas of representation, turning instead to the relationship of materials and perceptions over aims of expression or intervention. Raw physical materials are given preference over manmade in Mono-ham and Ufan’s installation of a rock facing a blank canvas invites viewers to take in the scene and draw their own conclusions in this quiet contemplative space.
Stanley Whitney’s paintings, “Highsummer” (2017), “Prussian Blue” (2017), “May Day” (2017) and “Bertacca” (2017) all add a welcome colourful respite from the long concrete passage that leads to the alcove in which they are presented. The artist, who has been exploring the possibilities of colour since the 1970s, creates vibrant colour block works, their surface simplicity often defying the complexity behind them. Whitney’s work is largely based on music, presenting a performance dance as he paints while the structures of Jazz and African music often dictate his decisions over the placement of colours in his works.
Around the corner, works by British conceptual artist Ryan Gander fill a large space. The pieces, which were especially commissioned for “Everything at Once” explore the notion of spectatorship and the psychology behind looking, feeling and desire. Mechanical life-size faceless figures, based on artists’ armatures to model the human form, are composed in emotional human poses. Two figures recreate the scene from Michelangelo’s La Pietà in which Mary cradles the lifeless body of Jesus while the other two figures gaze in contemplation and wonder. A large draped mirror and electric stairway to heaven add to the sense of the surreal in Gander’s work, leaving lots to take in and a playful lingering sense of wonder as one moves through the space and ascends the staircase.
On the second floor, visitors are greeted with Tatsuo Muyajima’s “Time Waterfall” (2017). This digital sculptural piece reflects on the glass wall opposite showering the viewer with falling electric blue digits from both sides. The numbers 1-9 flash at various speeds in ascending and descending order and represent the journey from birth to death, the finality of which is “0” but never appears in the artist’s work, thus allowing for a sense of continuity.
Haroon Mirza’s installation “A Chamber for Horwitz; Sonakinatography Transcriptions in Surround Sound” (2015) lights up a dark room with an interplay between the currents of electronic sounds and coloured LED lights. The piece originated in the form of a complex working drawing by LA-based artist Channa Horwitz (1932 – 2013), which Mirza transcribed into the multi-coloured sonic score that makes up the installation and makes for a highly engaging immersive and hypnotic experience.
Another immersive aural-visual experience lies in wait within a black square room nearby in the form of Shirazeh Houshiary’s “Breath” (2003). Here, the viewer is exposed to a spiritual symphony as chants of Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Islamic prayers play out from all four walls in time with digital screens that expand and contract in tandem with the chorus. The effect of bringing the voices of four separate religions together is haunting – strangely peaceful but also gives rise to a sense of unease as the various hymns sing over each other, giving rise to a dichotomy that is both harmonious and disharmonious.
Julian Opie’s sculptural and digital wall works, “Imagine you are driving (Sculpture 4), (1993) and “Night motorway. 1. (2017) and “Tunnel. 1.” (2016) are presented alongside empty office cabinets and provide a commentary on the technological mediation through which we experience the world around us and perhaps the emptiness of corporate life. The concrete racing track conjures a sense of a barren circuit that the individual is locked into while the computer animated driving video screens exacerbate the sense of the individual (and often lonely) journey we are locked into.
Tony Cragg’s metallic, wooden and sandstone sculpture installations, “Tools” (1986) and “Minster” (1987) make for a very striking sight against the glass backdrop that opens up a view overlooking the Thames and the urban skyline of London’s South Bank. “Minster” is in fact inspired by the architecture of Cathedral spires and pays homage to man’s constructional achievements. The sandstone shapes that make up “Tools” on the other-hand are a nod to primitive forms of mechanical aids. The artist does not see a difference between the natural and the manmade and opts to highlight the connections between the two rather than the disparity.
The last installation in this gallery is Susan Hiller’s “Channels” (2013), which amounts to a mass of 104 analogue television screens, which, filling the back wall of a room, collectively beam out an enchanting array of interchanging interference snow displays and blue and green lights. Recordings of audio accounts and oscilloscope recordings of people who have experienced death and returned to tell the tale play over one another in different languages, making it the individual stories difficult to follow in full. While the messages from the other side are incoherent, Hiller’s work makes for a surreal experience, submerging visitors in an onslaught of stimuli all at once.
“Channels” is of course, the perfect endnote to this exhibition, Everything at Once, summarizing the concept of the multiple stimuli we are subjected to in modern life. It will leave you satiated but also craving for more, the next distraction... sound bite or new immersive visual experience. Sadly, the exhibition ends here but life awaits outside, and chances are you will re-enter the real world with a heightened sense of awareness of the sources of magic and inspiration that hide within the sensory overload of every day modern existence. We would highly recommend a visit to “Everything at Once” before it ends on Sunday if you are in London and haven’t been to it yet. Full of artwork by leading contemporary names (even more than included in this article) under the meticulous curation teams behind The Lisson Gallery and The Vinyl Factory, It is the type of exhibition that you could get a lot out of whether you have an hour to breeze through or a day to while away.
Everything at Once is open from Tuesday to Sunday 10th December at The Store Studios, 180 Strand, More information on the exhibition may be found here.