Critics’ Picks

Martin Creed, Work No. 1701, 2013, video, color, sound, 4 minutes 36 seconds.

Martin Creed, Work No. 1701, 2013, video, color, sound, 4 minutes 36 seconds.


“The Infinite Mix”

Hayward Gallery
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road
September 9–December 4, 2016

You’re adrift on a sea of sound. Long, sinuous strands of seaweed curl around you, drawing you in. “The Infinite Mix,” comprising ten moving-image works, is a heady temporal—rather than spatial—audiovisual experience. Martin Creed’s uplifting and bittersweet Work No. 1701, 2013, depicts people of all stripes—young, old, disabled, hurt—crossing a street on New York City’s Lower East Side to an upbeat track by the artist. Ugo Rondinone’s THANX 4 NOTHING, 2015, a multiscreen performance by poet John Giorno (who is Rondinone’s boyfriend), reflects upon themes of life and death. Rachel Rose’s Everything and More, 2015, narrates the experiences of an astronaut who traverses the sublime vastness of space. Jeremy Deller and Cecilia Bengolea mine gleeful absurdity in Bom Bom’s Dream, 2016, a love letter to Bom Bom, a Japanese dance-hall diva; Kahlil Joseph takes us to the streets of Compton for m.A.A.d., 2014; and Cameron Jamie records a series of erotic, unsettling dances in Massage the History, 2007–2009.

It’s two works here, however, that really shine: One of them is Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s apparitional OPERA (QM.15), 2016, a hologram of the artist as the midcentury soprano Maria Callas. Callas was famous for walking out on her own performances, so it’s strange to witness her hovering instead, singing her arias through an eternal darkness. And then there’s Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife, 2015. With its poignant sound track (consisting of two versions of Alton Ellis’s song “Black Man’s World”), it explores notions of trauma and history. Gaillard puts you under, buffeted by waves, as you pass from the story of Rodin’s The Thinker, 1880, a cast of which sat outside the Cleveland Museum of Art and was damaged by an explosive laid by the Weather Underground, the extremist group, in 1970, to the sinuous dancing of trees in the wind, moving like an enchanted Hydra. You do more than watch and listen—you inhabit, sliding into a space of unnamable sensations.

This exhibition is a sucker punch to the gut. You can leave its sensory universe behind at the door, but its power remains, penetrating your heart’s most tender and vulnerable places.