Art So Intense It Makes Your Eyes Water: Ryoji Ikeda at 180 The Strand

Ryoji Ikeda, 180 The Strand ★★★★★

Art So Intense It Makes Your Eyes Water: Ryoji Ikeda at 180 The Strand Ryoji Ikeda, 180 The Strand 5
Data is used to create stunning visualisations in this three screen installation. © Jack Hems, 180 The Strand

There's a condition known as Stendahl syndrome where you see an artwork so beautiful that you feel faint, confused, and as if your heart is about to burst out of your chest. It's something I've never experienced but I've come pretty close at this major exhibition of Ryoji Ikeda's work at 180 The Strand. It's not just because the show is brilliant — but it is — but also because it's one of the most intense art experiences I've ever been through.

I've walked through a tunnel so blindingly bright that my eyes watered, been assaulted by sound waves that pulsated through my bones, and taken in so much data that my brain has turned to mush. Overwhelmed is an understatement.

Test Pattern at one of its calmer moments before the intensity ratchets up. © Jack Hems, 180 The Strand

In a work called Test Pattern I stand on what looks like an extra long zebra crossing before it starts flickering and pulsing at a speed that's likely to make even the most iron stomached visitor feel a little queasy — I definitely felt unsure on my feet after walking off it. It's all part of Ikeda's plans to assault our senses to test the limits of what we can bear. Consider me tested.

In one three screen installation galaxies appear to coalesce in front of my eyes as data from across the universe is turned into spellbinding visuals, and that's one of the calmer installations. Nearby I stand in front of a giant black circle on a pulsing screen and it's like staring into a black hole — if I stray too close I fear I may be sucked in. Safe to say this is one exhibition that should be avoided by anyone who suffers from photosensitive epilepsy.

A tunnel so bright the light is blinding. © Jack Hems, 180 The Strand

The industrial nature of the works makes them right at home in the Brutalist interior of the venue and once I stumble out into the daylight it's like stepping off a long haul flight — I'm full of excitement, but I'm also groggy and feel like I need a lie down. The greatest art challenges the viewer and here Ryoji Ikeda has laid down one hell of a gauntlet.

Fact Magazine and The Vinyl Factory in collaboration with Audemars Piguet Contemporary present Ryoji Ikeda is on at 180 Studios from 20 May - 1 August. Tickets are £15 for adults.

Last Updated 19 May 2021