Blaring sirens urge caution, especially where the physical potential of Black masculinity is concerned.
Curated by SUUM Project
180 The Strand
Until 6 February
Review by Danielle Papamichael
In the basement of the Brutalist building 180 The Strand, deep beneath the bustling streets of Holborn, LUX : New Wave of Contemporary Art, curated by SUUM Project in collaboration with Fact magazine, showcases work at the forefront of immersive media art.
Twelve celebrated international artists and collectives who specialise in digital art have explored the theme of light and what happens to it when it becomes the primary subject matter. Using the latest audio-visual technologies and artificial intelligence (AI), they set out to blur the boundaries between the ‘natural and the artificial, the arts and the sciences, the physical and the digital and between humanity and technology’. The work challenges the way we perceive art and live and act in the world at present, providing a kind of roadmap for how we will likely live in the future.
Stage designer Es Devlin presents BLUESKYWHITE, a large-scale environmental installation split into two parts. In Part I, an eerie recording of Lord Byron’s 1816 poem ‘Darkness’ guides you through a 24 metre-long, red-lit tunnel. It describes the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, Indonesia where gas and more than ten billion tonnes of rock were expelled into the atmosphere, causing the earth’s temperature to cool by 3 degrees celsius and producing ferociously red skies. Part II uses contemporary solar geo-engineering models to suggest that a controlled version of the volcanic eruption could reduce global temperatures to pre-industrial levels and turn our blue skies white. The installation allows the viewer to ponder how natural phenomena might solve humanity’s misdeeds.
Multi-disciplinary artist, director and poet Julianknxx’s Black Corporeal (Breathe) explores the black psyche and the ability to breathe. For the artist the very act of breathing for black people is ‘continuously challenged by everything from air pollution, stress, and anxiety, and societal prejudice’. His beguiling and impactful film, displayed on several screens forming a U shape, shows a choir chanting the word ‘breathe’ on a loop; Julianknxx aims for their soulful voices to push us to engage with both the ‘physical and metaphysical aspects of breathing’.
Other artwork includes Refik Anadol’s Renaissance Generative Dreams which uses artificial intelligence to ‘data paint’. It’s an experiment, Anadol writes, to turn ‘visual and textual data sets of Renaissance painting, sculpture, architecture, and literature into multidimensional art pieces’ which change shape and colour as they flow into new forms. The piece provides a contemporary way to appreciate Renaissance art while creating a sense of nostalgia for the originals that feels particularly potent in a time of emerging NFTs and digital art forms.
LUX is an impressive exhibition that draws you in with its sensory prickling and strikingly visual landscapes. Technologies which were once reserved for business and government institutions are excitingly repurposed by creatives. The works are positioned at the intersection of our physical and virtual worlds, prompting engagement with the increasing controversies around big data, AI and the tracking of our online footprints.