It’s always fun to watch stuff being blown up. Case in point is filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni’s countercultural classic ‘Zabriskie Point’, the astonishing final scene of which confronts you as you enter the gallery. It’s a looped, slow-mo ballet of exploding, cascading consumer objects – everything from fridge-freezers to televisions – set to a blistering Pink Floyd soundtrack.
As you may have guessed, the theme of this exhibition is explosions. Subjects range from fireworks to thermonuclear war, and contemporary artists blur the boundaries between artistic and scientific experimentation. Not all the works are as overtly dramatic as Antonioni’s. Several pieces make deadpan comments about explosive subject matter – from Mariele Neudecker’s graphite rubbings of real and decoy missiles to a wall-text by arch-conceptualist Lawrence Weiner that describes a detonation. The standout piece in this upstairs section is Fischli and Weiss’s justly famous and utterly captivating video ‘The Way Things Go’, featuring a sequence of homemade chemical and physical reactions: a whizzing, flaring, fizz-popping chain of cause and effect.
In the downstairs gallery, the emphasis is on performance works, including archival material along with video or photographic documentation. There’s a focus on key figures involved in the influential 1966 ‘Destruction in Arts Symposium’, such as Gustav Metzger, as well as an intriguing trend towards what can only be described as pyrotechnic industrial concerts, with films of the Bow Gamelan Ensemble making music on an offshore oil rig, and a quite literally banging percussive piece by Stephen Cripps. Occasionally, it feels as though the exhibition tries to blast off in too many directions at once, particularly for such a small space. All in all, though, there’s enough on display here to spark anyone’s interest.