Ryoji Ikeda at 180 The Strand is brain-meltingly good art

Art, Contemporary art
Ryoji Ikeda, spectra III, ©Jack Hems, 180 The Strand, 2021.
Ryoji Ikeda, spectra III, ©Jack Hems, 180 The Strand, 2021.

Time Out says

Immersive art gets a bad rap, dismissed as twinkly lights and pretty colours designed to get Insta likes. But there's nothing twinkly or pretty about Ryoji Ikeda's exhibition at 180 The Strand, and it is seriously immersive. Instead, the Japanese artist (here with his biggest ever European show) has filled the labyrinthine brutalist spaces of this former office block with eye-searing, brain-liquifying, ear-shredding light and sound installations.

Flickering lightboxes greet you as you walk in before you’re ushered through a blinding corridor of brutally bright white light. It's hot, intense, uncomfortable. You're spat out into a room of humming speakers, massive cones sending blips and bloops around the room and making your head feel like that bloke in ‘Scanners’.

Downstairs you walk into a wall of black; an abyssal hole enveloped in strobing white, intended to feel like entering a black hole. I’ve personally never actually walked into that particular kind of spacetime phenomenon, but if it’s anything like this it’ll be weirdly pleasant, a pulsating massage for the eyeballs, a bit like being hypnotised by a full stop.

Then a multi-screen installation screams countless images of galaxies and graphs and charts at you at a billion miles per hour before you’re finally shunted into a new version of ‘Test Pattern’, a room where the floor is ablaze with constant strobing rushes of black and white lines. The sound of the clicks and static is ear bleeding, the lights are painful on the eyes, it’s so intense, so bodily, so assaulting. 

The subtler works here, like the opening room and the space filled with speakers, get a bit eclipsed by the shoutier works, but the rest is genuinely overwhelming.

There’s a surface level to all this where it’s just super immersive lights and sounds, but you leave feeling like you’ve experienced something deeper: it’s information overload as a full body experience, it’s the feeling of all the data in the universe being chucked at you at once, no filter.

It’s not comfortable or particularly pleasant, but after half a year without any art, it feels good to finally be made to feel something again.

Book tickets for Ryoji Ikeda at 180 The Strand in collaboration with The Vinyl Factory and Audemars Piguet Contemporary here.

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