The Infinite Mix review – video-art medley dances madly with big ideas
Source:theguardian Author:Adrian Searle Date: 2016-09-08 Size:
Maria Callas stands in a narrow alcove beyond a barrier in a dark ……

An image from Bom Bom’s Dream (working title), 2016.

Maria Callas stands in a narrow alcove beyond a barrier in a dark and resounding space. A holographic apparition, Callas is a woman in red, played by artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, lip-synching the diva’s voice as she sings arias from Cherubini’s Medea, Verdi’s La Traviata and Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.

We are in a cavernous concrete floor of Store, a brutalist office block on London’s Strand, now occupied by the Hayward’s The Infinite Mix, an offsite exhibition (the Hayward gallery itself is closed for a two-year refurbishment) devoted to sound and image, video and music. As well as the holographic ghost of Maria Callas, Gonzalez-Foerster gives us an aural apparition of the opera house itself, with recorded whispers from the audience and the echoey background noise of an auditorium whose volume is larger than the space we are in. There is a yearning for something always beyond reach in Gonzalez-Foerster’s work that I like very much.

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s Opera.

Down in the basement, you have to wear 3D glasses to watch Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife. The dancing plant-life and trees in his film lurch out at you, waving around to the dub-reggae rhythm of the chorus to Alton Ellis’s 1970 Blackman’s World. “Aww-wah, I was born a loser,” Ellis wails, over and over. Gaillard’s film takes us from night-time corners of LA to the Nazi-era Olympiastadion in Berlin, where we go airborne into the heart of a firework display via a drone-operated camera.

Oo-err, I say, rather than Ooh-ahhh! Then we find ourselves amid the branches of the oak tree that stands outside the Cleveland high school attended by Olympic gold-medallist Jesse Owens (the sapling oak was presented to the runner by the organisers of the 1936 Berlin Olympics). Nightlife is completed by a sample from Ellis’s 1971 cover of his earlier song. “I was born a winner,” he sings. There is a lot to unpack in Gaillard’s film, but all that 3D foliage keeps poking me in the eye.

Pumped up from doing synchronised press-ups on an extremely smart living room floor, a group of young black men are distracted by thoughts of sex. One thing leads to another: one minute they’re fingering the cushions and eyeing up an occasional table, the next they’re humping the upholstery and the carpet, and doing it with the three-piece suite. Unaccountably, they’re wearing dust-masks and dog-tags. These scenes from a room in Montgomery, Alabama, shot on mobile phones and camcorders, and transferred to 35mm come with one of Sonic Youth’s more memorable tracks, 2009’s Massage the History. Kim Gordon’s vocal, says film-maker Cameron Jamie, made the whole thing more strange than the original hip-hop beat, as if things weren’t already weird enough.

There’s more mad dancing in Bom Bom’s Dream, another Jeremy Deller collaboration with Argentinian Cecilia Bengolea. Bom Bom is a Japanese dancer, all big punk hair, rubber knickers and filthy tights, an Alice in Wonderland for our age. Horribly, she reminded me of Toyah Wilcox, except when she gets to dancing, which is very down and dirty in the Jamaican dust. Bom Bom can almost tie her legs in knots, and dances like an all-in wrestler in a voodoo trance, scissor-kicking and squirming and knocking other dancers to the floor. In the end she wins an electric fan – big up Bom Bom, the dancehall queen! Eventually she gets eaten by the badly patched-in CGI iguana who wanted to marry her. Surely this is piffle.

Stan Douglas’s Luanda-Kinshasa.

Martin Creed’s song-length film was shot at a New York intersection. While Creed’s song battles along, people cross the street. A guy with a prosthetic leg crosses like a nimble seaman on a lurching deck. A woman crosses with a bobbing, palsied gait. When she’s gone, a man hops painfully in the other direction, his bandaged foot in a sandal. All the walkers are more or less ambulant till the last, a guy who crosses backwards, on his ass, dragging himself along with his arms. The whole thing is like Creed’s sculptures – a set of examples, in this case of mobility, persistence and fortitude.

Here’s some more examples of types: Afro-haired bass players, studious organists, a wild, female drummer, introverted sax players, jerky, angular guitarists, hepcats all, playing an extended 1970s-style jazz, funk and Afrobeat studio jam that goes on for six hours. No, it is not Miles’s crew from Bitches Brew. There are some fine musicians in Stan Douglas’s Luanda-Kinshasa, a 2013 recreation of an imaginary session in a New York Columbia Records studio in the early 1970s. Douglas recorded the musicians at different times and patched the whole thing together to make it look and sound like one long, seamless groove.

Rachel Rose’s Everything and More also has a retro feel, of the sorts of ether, pigment and bubble-bath light-shows that were big in the late 1960s, smearing visual goo over bands in acid-drenched concert. Here, they are used in conjunction with American astronaut David Wolf’s voiceover description of floating in space. Rose’s curdling psychedelic fractals are meant to make you think of galaxies and nebulae, but look like spume on a caramel and passion fruit skinny latte. Rose’s work is projected onto a translucent screen in front of a window looking out over London’s South Bank. I guess we are meant to feel weightless.

Rachel Rose’s Everything and More.

Elizabeth Price’s multilayered videos are beginning to feel overly mannered, with their PowerPoint-style split screens, montaged clips of old footage and reams of scrolling text. I guess this is deliberate. In K, 2015, country singer Crystal Gayle and her backing singers become the Krystals, a group of professional mourners who perform cathartic rituals at funerals and other public and corporate events. Simultaneously, we watch a hi-tech automated loom weaving and package yellow stockings, a mesmeric process that seems to take place in outer space. Price can make the real look like an animation, fiction look like fact. A stop-frame black and white image of the sun, with its strange blips of solar weather, flickers on another part of the screen, the images compiled from glass-plate slides taken between 1870 and 1948. Price is weaving the disparate elements of her material together, with the walking-pace clunks and whirs of machinery and the flat, electronic voiceover.

Kahlil Joseph’s m.A.A.d.

Kahlil Joseph’s 2014 m.A.A.dis an atmospheric response to Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 album good kid, M.A.A.D city. Joseph compiled much of this footage for use in Lamar’s stage show when he went on tour with Kanye West in 2013. Mixing fragments and outtakes from Lamar’s album, and family home-video footage given him by the rap artist, Joseph takes us on a tour of Compton, Lamar’s home town south of LA. We see menacing guys with pump-action rifles, cruising cars, rumbles and rucks, and a body suspended from a streetlamp. The territory is familiar from Lamar’s videos, and is synchronised with the same sinewy jump-cuts and melodious rhythms as his music. Joseph’s two-screen film is panoramic and intimate, has great pace and precision, and alternates threat and fear, street life and police brutality with domestic family life.

Ugo Rondinone’s Thanx 4 Nothing.

New York poet John Giorno, the subject of Ugo Rondinone’s film installation, mixes his whole life in a performance of his poem Thanx 4 Nothing, written on his 70th birthday. I first saw it in Rondinone’s exhibition I *heart emoji* John Giorno, dedicated to the work of his lover, at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris last winter and has stayed with me ever since.

Filmed at Paris’s Palais de Glace theatre, we see Giorno in black suit, white shirt and black tie, his feet naked. And again in white suit, black shirt, white tie, spotlit on an empty darkened stage. Four large screens surround us, with monitors set on the floor like stage footlights, giving different views, long-shots and profiles of Giorno in a wonderful performance of this long autobiographical work in which he thanks all his past lovers and friends for good sex and bad times, their intimacies and betrayal.

Giorno, who slept onscreen in Warhol’s 1963 film Sleep, name-checks his lovers and celebrates his life’s reversals. As well as a recorded performance, Rondinone’s installation is itself a portrait of the poet at 75. His loving portrait confronts Giorno’s own. It is a wonderful, visually stunning, intimate and complex work, and worth the visit alone.

The Infinite Mix is at the The Store, 180 The Strand, London, 9 September to 4 December.

[Editor] 张艳