UNKLE’s James Lavelle presents a phenomenal exhibit dedicated to the legendary film director
Wednesday 6th July marks the opening of the Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick exhibition at Somerset House, a unique project in partnership with Canon and additional support from the Blavatnik Family Foundation. Curated by James Lavelle and James Putnam, the event showcases fascinating works of art and film dedicated to or inspired by Stanley Kubrick and his iconic cinematography. Seeing one of the founding members of UNKLE getting involved in such an ambitious endeavour does not come as a surprise, though. The artist and musician has long been a Kubrick fan, his life changed forever from the moment he discovered 2001: A Space Odyssey at his local video store.
The exhibition explores and unveils the tremendous impact of one of the most innovative and highly influential film makers of all time, through the works of some of the world’s most talented contemporary artists, and it comes in multiple mediums: from photography to paintings and sculptures, to light installations, multimedia and films, with musical backgrounds belonging to UNKLE and some of Kubrick’s key soundtracks. Somerset House opens its doors to welcome visitors, art and film aficionados alike under the soft glaze of an orange light, reminiscent of Kubrick’s cinematography. The event unravels in a maze of its own, nowhere near as harrowing and deadly as the original from The Shining – instead, it delights and surprises in a variety of creations stemming from the film maker’s life and work.
Unsurprisingly, Chris Levine captures the audience with Mr Kubrick is Looking, a stunning self-portrait of the film icon projected into the viewer’s peripheral vision through LED light technology. If you simply look at it, you’ll only see a straight vertical line of white light. But once you look away, Stanley Kubrick will be watching you from the corner of your eye. By all possible definitions, this installation is as intriguing and intense as Kubrick’s entire film portfolio. Given that the ‘sensory energy’ and the ‘spiritual dimension’ of light constantly fascinate Chris, this particular piece manages to offer a unique glimpse into Kubrick’s own universe, as he looks deep into your soul from beyond the screen.
Mounted on a wall at the end of a hallway, right in the heart of the gallery, Mr Kubrick is Looking is accompanied by an equally haunting soundtrack: original pieces of music by JocelynPook (Eyes Wide Shut), renowned composer MaxRichter (the longest continuous piece of recorded classical music in history), JoshHomme (long time UNKLE collaborator and member of Queens of the Stone Age), and MercuryRev (the critically acclaimed psychedelic rock group from across the pond, also featuring Simon Raymonde from Cocteau Twins); all four pieces are intertwined with the voice of Brian Cox, as well as an interview with Christiane Kubrick, recorded at their family home in St. Albans.
Stanley Kubrick got into making films at the young age of 25, and released his first big feature film in 1956 – TheKilling. He continued to direct cinema classics – legends of the genre over the following four decades, thrilling and inspiring entire generations of artists, writers and film makers – who could ever forget Lolita, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket or Eyes Wide Shut? What truly set him apart as a creator of audio-visual experiences was his stern refusal to bend under the plastic fists of Hollywood studios, and instead focused on delivering films of power and pertinence, sometimes controversial but always original. He crossed boundaries and genres, he took no prisoners and he apologized for nothing – his insatiable drive and fierce nature made him the icon that he is today.
Of the many works of art and film exhibited, we felt the need to highlight those to which our souls were most connected to, as long time fans of his strangely moving films. As soon as you walk into #DreamingKubrick, you get to meet the film maker through the eyes of his daughter, Christiane, in a painting from 1999 titled Remembering Stanley – her illustrative style and warmth flow freely through colours and brush strokes that depict Stanley Kubrick sitting down by the water, smiling back at you from a little opening in the natural landscape.
As you walk into the next room, you’re face with MattCollishaw’s allusion to 2001:A Space Odyssey. A primate’s curious expression overlaps a human skull, inside a space helmet. It looks back at you, suggesting a sort of reverse timeline, where the ancient past discovers the distant future – a work of discovery and wonder, transcending time and space in a manner similar to the film from which it draws its inspiration.
Further down the Shining-inspired hallway, you step inside the weirdly playful multimedia room created by James Lavelle and JohnIsaacs, along with AzziGlasser. titled In Consolus – Full of Hope and Full of Fear, the teddy bear scene underlines the loss of innocence and abuse of power, where the food boxes once again send the viewers to another scene from the legendary film starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. Perfume designer Azzi Glasser’s scent, A Space Odyssey comes as a fragrance contrast of discovery against the dismal ambiance of In Consolus. The soundtrack was equally touching – the result of a collaboration with Detroit’s own Carl Craig and the Italian power duo from Planet Funk, and featuring spoken words excerpts from Michele Lamy and a signature influence from UNKLE collaborator Elliott Power.
As you move through the labyrinth of visual tributes and stunning artworks, you inevitably enter the mirror room of Doug Aitken, called Twilight. His sculpture recalls the pay phone, used (in vain) to avert a nuclear catastrophe in Dr. Strangelove. Its white glow gives it a foreign look, as it resembles a relic from a bygone civilisation in suspended animation – the aftermath of an inevitable end.
In another room, where several miniature scenes reveal thoughts and secrets from behind the sets of Kubrick’s iconic works, GavinTurk’s The Shining stands out. The mirrored maquette evokes the dreaded but famous maze from the fictional Overlook Hotel – a visual pun on the very title of the film. The artist’s work often deals with optical illusions and the ambiguous affair between representation and reality. His maze is a reflective metaphor for being lost in a deep psychological sense. It did take us a while to step away from it.
Further down the rabbit hole, we stumble upon a deeply resonating installation by Mark Karasick, titled SK1928 – a photograph of Stanley Kubrick as a baby, a haunting portrait painted on 220 paper sheets, assembled into a striking work of art that towers over a marble inscription of an even deeper meaning: “The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent”. Accompanied by the clinking sounds of an old Adler typewriter, viewers will find themselves standing in front of Kubrick’s most innocent visage, as if travelling through time to meet the seed beneath the genius.
After spending some time in front of Mr. Kubrick is Looking, and marvelling at Chris Levine’s ability to excite the human senses in such a Kubrick-esque style, we move through the maze until we encounter Paul Fryer’s The Second Law. It’s the coolest corner of Somerset House at this point in time – and it comes as no surprise. The artist’s work makes a clear reference to the final scene in The Shining. Trapped in a glass-fronted vertical freezer and covered in ice and snow under a dim, clair-obscur type of light, one would expect to see Jack Torrance with a tortured and psychotic expression – instead, the artist turns the wax figure into an eerie resemblance of Stanley Kubrick himself.
There aren’t enough words to describe the marvellous voyage that one takes through the maze at Somerset House, in an attempt to explore the effects of Stanley Kubrick on so many artists and film makers. We’ll go back there, again and again and again, until the exhibition ends on 24th August, and we strongly advise anyone who has seen and enjoyed any of the film icon’s cinematic masterpieces to go and revel in the haunting, exhilarating, surprising and original array of artistic works and tributes. As the title says, this summer we get to do a little bit of Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick.