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THE VINYL FACTORY – REVERB

Reviewed for London Born & Bred by J K Simmonds


People sitting on a bench watching a pink and red light installation
Es Devlin, Atlas of Es Devlin, 2023

I’ll concede that I knew not entirely what to expect from this expansive installation, but, despite this, intrigue was fully sated and ninety minutes at the 180 Studios swallowed wholly in what felt like the blink of an eye. ‘Blinking an eye’ would not be recommended practice here, however: there is much to absorb both sight and sound in this engaging, thought-provoking and conscience-pricking spectacular of sensory stimulation.


In its containment of all this colour and resonance, the brutalist, almost low-rent surroundings of the 180 somehow feels like a perfect environment. Those dank, grey walls disable all external distraction as one absorbs a nugget of Stan Douglas’s Luanda-Kinshasa, a six-hour early-seventies film recording of a jam between a group of US musicians fusing jazz and Afrobeat – and the first in this series of eighteen varied and contrasting artistic statements. (How much of the film is relayed is uncertain, but I’d have happily watched considerably more than the twenty-or-so minutes set aside.)

Man standing in front of an array of speakers set in pink art installation
Virgil Abloh, 12-inch voices.

The installation then takes us through, among others, Chicago polymath Virgil Albloh’s 12-inch Voices – a collision of modern jazz and contemporary design – via Caterina Barbieri and Ruben Spini’s Vigil 2.0 – a compelling and tranquil marriage of sequenced electronic music and ice-sculpture – to Jenn Nkiru’s Black to Techno – a filmic tapestry (or ‘cosmic archaeology’, as the artist promotes it) exploring the influence of Motown on the global black techno scene.


For this reviewer, one of the most potent was the final installation – Es Devlin’s Screenshare, a thought-provoking animated presentation projected onto a screen created from sketches by this artist. (At the climax to the film, those watching are invited to take a drawing from the screen itself.)


Very much recommended, but give yourself a solid morning or afternoon and be aware that it contains low lighting and flashing lights.


J K Simmonds – May 2024


The Vinyl Factory – REVERB displays at the 180 Studios between 23 May and 28 September 2024.


180 The Strand, the entrance to the exhibition is located at 2 Surrey Street (next to Toklas, WC2R 2ND)

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