They’re just showing off at this point, the folks behind 180 The Strand. They’ve got the cavernous space, they’ve got the mind-bending artists, and they’ve got the experience of putting on the best immersive art exhibitions in London over the past decade. They don’t even need to try.
But they’re doing it anyway. And this new show is peak 180. It’s room after room of dizzying technological AV wonders that will clog your Instagram feed for months.
The most effective installations are the ones that emphasise physical sensation. Returning stars UVA (they had a solo show here a few years back) trip you up with lights that bisect the space, slicing through the room and leaving you feeling like you’re melting through the floor. Nonotak try to give you seizures with strobing cubes of light, Hamill Industries send waves of smoke pulsing at you, Tundra chop you up with holograms.
Then you get Gaika’s brilliantly, threateningly intense robo-installation, Weirdcore’s room of coloured ribbons and throbbing lights – soundtracked by Richard D James aka Aphex Twin – which feels like being stuck inside a psychedelic computer, and Ben Kelly’s room of gyrating totems and columns that look like Brancusi raving at the Haçienda, which makes sense, because Ben Kelly designed the Haçienda.
It’s not that the other works here – the films and clever AI installations – aren’t good, it’s just that they get lost in the maelstrom of experiential art.
So what’s this show about, what’s the big conceptual idea here? I don’t really think there is one. There are works about violence, race, AI, light and space and none of it really fits together conceptually, it just all looks like the world’s fanciest branch of Cyberdog.
But it probably doesn’t matter. Because what 180 has done is establish itself so firmly that you know exactly what you’re getting. You’re not coming here to think big thoughts and have a profound art experience, you’re coming here to be immersed in jawdropping installations. If we’re at the point where 180 can just put on regular shows of the best contemporary AV work and call it a day that’s probably a pretty good thing.