‘Do Androids dream of essential beats?‘, a question British Electronic collective UNKLE asked us in 2001. Then they took us to ‘Never, Never Land’ in their 2003 album and went on to ask ‘Where did the night fall?‘ in 2010. The founder James Lavelle, certainly specialises in giving his audience a musical encounter with the unknown. UNKLE are considered as trip-hop legends, up there with Massive Attack and Portishead. So their upcoming album ‘The Road’ will be one to listen out for. However, if you can’t wait until the album surfaces, Lavelle’s exhibition this February will be for you. The normative gallery experience, is changing. Today, it isn’t just the painted canvas that can be found at an exhibition and your eyes are being challenged in being the only sense to experience art at the gallery.
The marvellous, James Lavelle has curated the exhibition ‘Day Dreaming with UNKLE presents: The Road SOHO at the Lazarides Rathbone‘ to explore all things to do with UNKLE. There is literally something for everyone here. Having already begun on the 20th this January, it will be running until the 23rd February. Lavelle has included everything in this event, artists such as Doug Foster, John Isaacs, Norbet Schoerner, John Nolan, Nathan Coley and many more, will be featured. There will be a new virtual reality installation from ‘Day Dreaming with…Stanley Kubrick’ as well as special edition prints. If your into big brands, there will be a selection of coveted Nike and Converse vintage pieces. But, perhaps most surprisingly is the collaboration with perfumer, Azzi Glasser. Glasser and Lavelle have joined to create a scent that meets your nostrils as soon as you enter the gallery space at Lazarides Rothbone. The scent named, ‘Build and Destroy’ has been described as the ‘DNA print of the universe that Lavelle has created’. This time scent is used for more than just adorning your body, but instead to set the scene and eminate around the gallery. They say that scent is the strongest sense in bringing back memories, this exhibition will be one not to forget. We got in contact with James Lavelle, to find out more about his creative process and the importance of multi-sensory exhibitions:
How did you transition from recording artist to art curator? and what made you want to make the move?
I didn’t, the language of the work I have done has always had a curatorial element to it weather it was putting together records with art work and videos to mixing in clubs. I curated my first art show with Eric Haze, when I was 20 and have continued to work on gallery shows through out my career from Kaws , Dysfunctional to now Day dreaming with .
I love to be able to work with lots of different mediums within the creative/ art worlds, but am especially interested in how music can be used in different spaces, ‘day dreaming with’ started as my reaction to what was going on in the digital world where more and more felt disposable.
What do you envisage the audience reaction to be, after visiting your exhibition?
I hope they will enjoy it most importantly and get a sense of how the dots join from the past to the present. I hope people will also engage with the music from the new album and stop to think and pause and take it in.
How important is SOHO as an influence, being described as the birthplace of UNKLE?
Massively, it was the first place I went in London to buy records, I would frequent bluebird, black market, red, mr bongo and others on a daily basis, it’s where I met many fellow artists and musicians. I have been having my haircut at cuts for 25 years now and it’s were I first started to go clubbing and djing, Mo wax was based in NOHO, soho is where it all happened the most creative and unique part of london for me growing up, it still has the most interesting mix of characters in london.
Taking on such a big project with so many mediums involved, how have you managed to get them to relate to each other? Using scent within the exhibition is great, what gave you the idea? and how does it fit into an art exhibition?
I think they relate due to the emotional and creative feelings that all the artists have. If you had them all around a dinner table they would all connect as they have similar forces driving their work, and that it also has the connection through the music of UNKLE. I have worked with azzi for the past 8 years, our first collaboration was to scent a gig we did at the union chapel, it was such an amazing experience being in a venue like that with an installation of light by warren and nick with this amazing smell. I think its quite a thing when all of the senses are played with and smell is such an interesting but important feature in our lives, so I love working with Azzi as it brings a whole other world to the creative table.
There’s plenty more multi-sensory experiences to be had this month if you liked Day Dreaming with UNKLE…
The proliferation of selfies, be it through Instagram , Snapchat or Facebook, is a tough one to fully get to grips with. Why do we insist on constantly re-producing our faces online? Are selfie’s part of a larger trend in attempting a perfect ‘truthful’ self-definition to the public? Regardless of this, the selfie certainly goes deeper than just copying Kylie Jenner. If you’re interested in the cultural meaning of the selfie or maybe independent publishing and the renaissance of print, is more your thing, then keep an eye out for ‘Found in Translation’. In tune with the massive influx of multi-sensory exhibitions happening this month, the MA exhibition from London College of Fashion’s school of media and communication will be one to make time for. Running from the 16th to the 26th this February, several talks, workshops and a catwalk event, will take place. This exhibition is about looking at the new ways of communicating available to us, through multiple mediums such as contemporary photography, fashion, or the selfie. Perhaps the most self-aware of multi-sensory events, analysing cultural trends and modern methods of communication.
‘INTO THE UNKNOWN: A JOURNEY THROUGH SCIENCE-FICTION‘ – The Barbican:
‘Dif-tor heh smusma’, a huge compliment in Vulcan terms. Otherwise meaning, ‘Live, long and prosper’. Whether you’re a Star- Trek fan or not, you most probably have heard of this phrase, famously used by Mr. Spock and if science fiction is your thing, then the Barbican centre’s much anticipated exhibition should be at the top of your list. ‘Into the Unknown: A journey through Science-Fiction’ begins June this year and stays at the Barbican for three months, so you have plenty of time to make it there. The exhibtion explores the wacky yet philosophical genre across all of it’s mediums, from space ship prototypes, film props, contemporary art, literature to design. Curated by Swiss writer and historian Patrick Gyger, the exhibition will be a feast for your science-fiction tastebuds. Gyger frames science-fiction as more of a cultural force, rather than merely a collection of films and literature. Gyger has stated on science-fiction and the Barbican centre itself, ‘There is a sense there of a brave new world and the Barbican is of course utopian in its perspective and has that sense of after the war, people thinking we have this empty space and we can shape it and make it somewhere for people to live and share culture’
ELECTRONIC RENAISSANCE, BILL VIOLA – Palazzo Strozzi, Florence
The old masters, don’t really get ‘old’. Or at least, they continue to have cultural relevance and prove their infamous status time and time again. Beginning this March, Bill Viola, a legendary video artist will be showcasing a body of his work from the beginning of his career in the 1970s, right up to now. While Viola’s use of sound and video is undisbutably contemporary, much of his work draws on the legacy of the old masters such as the frescoes of Uccello and Masolino. If you can’t head over to Florence for the weekend, at least check out Bill Viola’s work, where you can. He is pioneering the contemporary video art form while remaining deeply rooted in spirituality and religious imagery.
‘TRANSCENDING BOUNDARIES’- Pace Gallery
Team Lab, are an ultra technologist collective from Japan. They explore what happens when art, technology, science and design meet in the middle. In the exhibition ‘Transcending Boundaries’, canvas’s move with the sea’s current in gold and blue, strobe lights collide with each other and vivid fauna blooms on your clothes. Going from the 25th of January to the 11th of March, the exhibition takes public interaction with art to it’s maximum potential. Team Labs ethos of art as an inter-displinery practice, is so in tune with art as a potentially multi-sensory experience. Contemporary art doesn’t seem satisfied with placing a canvas on a white wall anymore. They discuss their concept on their website stating, ‘Creative expression has existed through static media for most of human history, often using physical objects such as canvas and paint. The advent of digital technology allows human expression to become free from these physical constraints, enabling it to exist independently and evolve freely.’ Team Lab are definitely synonymous with the information age and our new dependance on technology. However, rather than perceiving digitalisation as isolating, it is something that brings you closer to the art work and those experiencing it.
GO AHEAD AND DROP THE BOMB- Faber Social & The Wire
Events such as ‘Go Ahead and Drop the Bomb’ that combine prose, poetry and music are also ones to watch out for, if your searching for a gentler kind of multi-sensory experience. Big names such as, Dj Andrew Weatherall (also a previous contributor at .Cent) performed, David Keenan reading from his new debut novel This is Memorial Device, Micheal Peterson recited his much loved and critically acclaimed poetry, combined to make an evening that enables art to be experienced directly and with feeling. Although this event has been and gone, keep an eye out for more Faber social events such as the launch of Cosey Fanni Tutti’s new autobiography ‘Art Sex Music‘ at Rough Trade East, with a set from John Grant.
Claire Barrow is bringing us another multi-sensory art experience and just in time for fashion week. The exhibition will combine technology, fashion and film. Barrow has also produced five clay sculptures, as well as included dance choreography. Set to be a truly immersive exhibition, doing away with the exclusivity of high fashion by combining both human physicality, sculpture and digital works. Barrow’s work is a primary example of the success that can be had from combining disciplines. What happens is both utterly modern and surreal.
So…why is there such an influx of these kinds of exhibitions? Is it because in an age of digitalisation, we demand instantaneous gratification? Or perhaps the growth of new technology offers us new creative opportunities? The boundaries of what constitutes art are definitely being explored, London (and Florence) is offering us some of the best and most innovative gallery experiences this month. It seems that our art scene is focusing now on the energy and direct instantaneous connection it can have with you, the minute you walk through the door. It’s not meant to be disorientating but fulfilling. Designer Eva Lotta Lamm’s philosophy to ‘practise wider than your discipline’, is something to keep in mind when making these gallery visits, it shows that the binaries between artistic practise are definitely being crossed and ultimately done away with.
So take your pick!