The gallery is alive. Not quite breathing, because there’s nothing biological here, but definitely twitching and awake. British artist Haroon Mirza has Frankensteined the big main space of the Zabludowicz Collection, shocking it with pulses of electricity, defibrillating it into a new hybrid being.
The main work takes leftover elements from an exhibition about Irish designer Eileen Gray – a timeline, biographical information, a documentary – and frames them in stuttering light with throbbing sounds. Ceiling fixtures flash red, walls flicker green, sounds wobble through the air as Björk talks about being hypnotised by TV in a film in the corner. Even though it’s dry and a bit barren, you’re blindsided into engaging with this story of a modernist designer, the lights and sound turning the building and the information into an immersive environment. But that’s just the first step.
Next door, a throbbing installation hammers you with news imagery and twisted pictures from Google’s AI research division, DeepMind; it’s like a sort of digital ayahuasca trip. It all grows to a crescendo in the following room, as works by various other artists and digitised voices lecture you about tech and cosmic matter while speakers sputter and pound with glitched-out tones. It’s overwhelming, a rush. But then he pulls the plug and takes it all away.
Upstairs, he’s built an anechoic chamber. A room of total silence, total darkness. You sit there and listen to your own breathing, blood pumping through your ears. Absolute nothingness, near-total sensory deprivation. For some people, the time speeds by. If you’re even half as tightly wound as I am, five minutes feels like a lifetime of neurotic torture.
Between the two sides of the show, the excess and the abyss, Mirza takes you on a trip through the art itself. He uses the immaterial – light, sound, electricity, even nothingness – to force out physical and mental reactions. In all his collaborative intensity, Mirza pushes you into a sort of heightened state of meditative trippiness through his art. It’s no landscape painting, but it sure does take you somewhere.