Review: Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick

Art & Culture

“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.”

Spanning the oeuvre of Stanley Kubrick, UNKLE’s James Lavelle has directed a collection of art, immersive film and installations in his clearly loved homage to the late auteur.

We are welcomed into Somerset House with some immediate and unexpected sensory explosions, which sets the rhythm for the next few hours. An inflammatory pyre of faux log effect electric fires, stacked 10 feet high, is totemic and symbolic of the scene in undoubtedly one of his most famous works “The Shining”. Stuart Haygarth’s towering and glowering work singes the shocked and raised eyebrows and partnered with a glance down the lengthy corridor of the usually understated gallery (which features a wonderfully tiled floor replica of the carpet at the Overlook Hotel). 

There is then an immediate contrast, from light and heat to dark and dry, much like most of the exhibition. Moving into a side room, we are immediately in an eerie, clerical and somehow wistful experiment in obsession. Cluttered with a trainspotter collection of 114 analogue radios, an abandoned study complete with late-at-night lonely scrawled notes and an unobserved yet tallied chalkboard. Harmonising musicians such as Beth Orton, Matt from The National, Jimi Goodwin and Jarvis Cocker, all muddled and still dustily recognisable between the shortwave interference, they perform a new version of 'Dies Irae', the Catholic requiem which has featured in Kubrick's work. Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard's detail is staggering, the white noise tone silent and still deafening and confusing beyond.


Further into the gallery, we come across James Lavelle's own personal installation. Surrounded by teddy bears depicting Alex and his Droogs, replete with indignant dildo ball masks, offending and still capturing a woolly susceptibility of "boys without fathers". This zone is a Kubrick IMDB fantasy, with reference to the obvious Orange, but also the wholesale supplies for the hotel in 'The Shining' and a looped video, soundtracked by Carl Craig & Planet Funk which segues two HALs from '2001'. All in a high ceilinged ornately corniched space, like a withdrawing room in some historical, metropolitan hotel.

The downside from these remarkable early installations is that the pieces of standalone artworks, and some of the film commissions, feel disjointed and unfortunately lost. Amid some easy, visceral, disturbing and exciting stimulus, pieces by Doug Aitken whose 'Dr. Strangelove' hotline infinitely mirrored and Julian Rosefeldt's Futurist film featuring Cate Blanchett lose any resonance. Another take on Strangelove by Michael Nyman would need more reverance, and was disappointed that it simply passed me by. Am sure they would have done elsewhere. Samantha Morton pairs up with ex-JAMC Douglas Hart for a semi-autobiographical film, eeking her early memories of watching '2001' and yet it is shown in a tiny off-corridor cubicle. It may have suited that elsewhere, but this is an exhibition of big vision and the narrow celebrations are undeniably diminished.

Back to the big stuff, the works that felt we were deep inside Stanley. Toby Dye's 'The Corridor', at that time early in an afternoon allowed us to be part of four endlessly looping films, cubed and soundtracked by one of UNKLE's finest tracks. As Richard Ashcroft sang, our own lonely souls looked in 360 degrees down four corridors. Excusing or approving of Joanna Lumley, it was the most involving flat screen cinema we had ever encountered.

The famous 'Stargate' sequence in '2001' has been imitated many times, quite often in a brain that has been rewired through several hallucinogenics. Doug Foster nails it. Using the most incredible kaleidoscopic camera trickery, and based on the mainstays of any acid trip (natural and religous), the very widescreen room that this film projects in changed us. After 10 minutes in there, there was a certain feeling of euphoria, wellbeing and connection, whether from reminiscence or actual synaptic firing. If that was available at home, I would not consider any other stimulant.

Did I talk about the breathing camera? Did I talk about Thomas Bangalter's black and fire study? What about a car-squashed penis with a soundtrack by Mick Jones? It is endless, and invigorating and fully brilliant. We almost missed Norbert Schoerner's 360 degree VR re-creation of this, walking around Discovery One, looking forward, sidewards and backwards with incredible realism. And once again, we felt part of this movie genius' vision. Distant, and alone ultimately, but never giving up on bigger ideals and large scale thinking. Not many artists have managed to piece together politics, natural history and science fiction together and make it all so human.

Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick is at Somerset House until 24th August 2016. More info and tickets can be found HERE.

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