Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick Exhibition, Somerset House (2016)
Hi hi hi there, we’ll keep this brief as we’ve plenty on as we transition to a new assignment next Monday – the layers of bureaucracy and security checks have been quite demanding – but I did manage to have a rather productive weekend just gone with that screening of The Neon Demon and a visit to the Daydreaming of Kubrick exhibition at Somerset House. I don’t wish to sound to overly negative but this wasn’t particularly brilliant, I am probably being overly critical and had impossibly high expectations given the favoured subject matter, but to my mind there was no connecting membrane through the exhibition, overall it never really emulated Stanley’s sour, dissective world view and many of the individual pieces were quite facile and unimaginative. Dressing up some giant teddy bears as Lolita or a leering Droog is not provocative, it smacks of all the hollow engineering of the entire YBA spawned movement as far as I’m concerned, and draping a crushed car with a large concrete cock in reference to the phallic murder weapon in A Clockwork Orange is about a staggering artistic statement as a Steven Segal inspired watercolour. There were some nice photos scattered around the place however, including an update of the perfectly preserved barn in Glastonbury where the climatic duel scene from Barry Lyndon was lensed, and this piece by Doug Foster entitled Beyond The Infinite was all very much emulating the prismatic DMT sequence in Enter The Void;
Far more effective however were two other pieces which got far closer to Kubrick’s legacy of innovation and experimentation, and these were worth the entry price alone. This piece by Toby Dye was inspired, as you walk into a room nested with four floor to ceiling projections on each wall, each transmitting a slow tracking shot through some abandoned office or perhaps hospital corridor. Just standing in a space where you are surrounded at every side by a visual moving slowly away into space is quite disorienting, while each wall features a Kubrick inspired character stalking down the corridor – a gas-masked droog, a skipping crimson garbed child, a furious lumberjack shirted Calcetti from The Wire, and a stately 18th Century courtesan and her simpering majordomo. The stroke of genius is to have these characters at certain points interact and break through into the reality of the other characters, as the Jack Torrance character grapples with the Alex De Large character, and on and on and on into infinity. Yes, it’s all very meta to use a tiresome contemporary term of reference, but it worked and actually provokes a sense of discovery and disorientation which was quite affecting.
The other interesting piece was from Chris Levine, and it’s probably best if I quote directly from the exhibition programme – ‘A self portrait of Kubrick is projected into the viewers peripheral vision using LED light technology. This ‘visual echo’ appears and disappears in a moment like a phantom’. Yeah, this was strange, like subliminally flash-burst blipverts registering in the mind, I think I’m still getting flashbacks a few days later. Finally it was quite amusingly eerie to be creeping about on a floorspace cloaked in that Overlook Hotel design which runs through the exhibition route like a bellowing frostbitten maniac with an axe, so after this going to see The Neon Demon at the Curzon was some sweet comic relief, cannibalistic taboo sexual deviancy and everything. It seems that some of my favourite directors including John Carpenter, Kubrick and to a lesser extent Spielberg are all getting some lavish attention this year, Michael Mann even had a season at the PC last month (but with no sign of Thief so I didn’t get round to anything), so while London and the world literally burns, I’m having the time of my time;