Environmentalism, Prostitution, Evolution: This Fantastic Free Exhibition Has It All

Strange Days, 180 Strand ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 64 months ago

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Environmentalism, Prostitution, Evolution: This Fantastic Free Exhibition Has It All Strange Days, 180 Strand 4
Lie in bed and watch this video float by, just don't fall asleep. © Pipilotti Rist. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Luhring Augustine.

A crude animation tells the tale of an impotent man whose wife turns to prostitution to satisfy her sexual urges. One client reveals himself to be an undercover policeman and while at first the husband is aroused by the ‘affair’, he then becomes jealous and fantasises about buggering the policeman into such a deep depression that he eventually commits suicide by igniting his own farts.

It’s utterly bonkers and it’s just one engrossing piece in this video art extravaganza. The free exhibition at 180 Strand is a partnership between The Vinyl Factory and New York’s New Museum.

A photorealistic avatar vomits while Elvis plays in this work by Ed Atkins. Courtesy the artist and Cabinet, London

Yes, you'll have to set aside around 3-4 hours to see all the work but there are so many great pieces to make you laugh, cry and inspire you that it will be a truly memorable half day.

One masterpiece worth sitting through for the full 45 minutes is John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea. A beautifully-shot film takes us through slavery, environmentalism and the wonders of nature. We’re huge fans of his work, and for those interested he’s currently got another film on at the Imperial War Museum.

Animations transform in a oddly satisfying work by Oliver Laric. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin

At the other, more playful end of the show is Pipilotti Rist’s work. Lay on the beds provided and watch a watery film play above you, with occasional flashes of genitalia and soothing music.

Men dance to Egyptian music, a digital avatar throws up on screen, and the history of the universe and evolution of mankind is told through scripture, Internet videos and archive footage from a museum.

This exhibition really earns its title, 'Strange Days', as what links these works is boundless ambition and sheer craziness.

Finally Londoners get to see John Akomfrah's masterpiece Vertigo Sea. Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery. Photo: Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio

The exhibition ends with a monster six-hour video by Ragnar Kjartansson. It shows the band The National playing their fantastic earworm of a song ‘Sorrow’ continuously, for as long as they could. It feels like something of an 'in joke'; the curators recognise how long people spend in the show so it’s fitting to screen an endurance piece where the performers are as exhausted as the audience.

Not all the works were our cup of tea, but at least half are worth staying for the full run time. It requires repeat visits as it’s tiring to take it all in one go. If you've only got time for one visit, we’ve listed our favourites at the bottom of the page, so you can be more selective.

We’re already planning a repeat visit to this fab show — it's the best of the three annual art shows that have been at this venue.

Strange Days: Memories of the Future is open until 9 December 2018 at The Store X, 180 The Strand, WC2R 1EA. Entrance is free.

Londonist's top recommendations are numbered the same as they are in the show. So if you're following the map as intended, here's where we recommend you stop off:

  • 1. Grosse fatigue by Camille Henrot
  • 3. 4th floor to madness by Pipillotti Rist
  • 6. The myth of progress by Klara Liden
  • 7. Jungle of desire by Wong Ping
  • 16. Vertigo Sea by John Akomfrah
  • 19. Jewel by Hassan Khan
  • 21. A lot of sorrow by Ragnar Kjartansson

For the last entry we don't recommend staying for the the full length — just as long as you are comfortable with.

Last Updated 03 October 2018