September. It has taken me a full month to absorb the awesomeness of the exhibit 'Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick' at Somerset House, London.
The venue is a stately pile on the Thames north bank originally built as a home for Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset in 1547. It has had many famous occupants including Queen Catherine of Braganza, who, as you all know gave Bom Bahia or beautiful bay, as dowry to her husband King Charles II.
Somerset House was demolished in 1775 and replaced by the imposing structure that exists today as one of the world’s foremost spaces for concerts and films, contemporary art and design exhibitions.
It was a balmy summer’s day in August when I finally ventured to the Kubrick exhibit, accompanied by my good friend Rez Kempton, star of Atul Malhotra’s excellent feature debut Amar Akbar & Tony (2015).
The first sight that greeted us at the venue’s Thames-side entrance was a giant director’s chair with ‘Kubrick’ emblazoned at the back. The exhibit was presented by artist and musician James Lavelle, founder of the music label Mo’Wax and triphop outfit UNKLE.
In his introduction to the exhibit Lavelle says:
“I discovered Stanley Kubrick at my local video store when I was a teenager. From the day I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, my life changed forever. His work became a guiding influence, a reference point, and remained so throughout my career.”
Lavelle could have been speaking for Rez and I, and indeed for millions of Kubrick aficionados around the world. Despite the exceptionally clement weather, Londoners had chosen to frequent the world of Kubrick rather than working on their tans and the exhibit was rammed, with a long queue to enter.
The first piece that struck us Mat Collishaw’s A Ω, where a primate’s face overlays a human skull encased in a space helmet, an homage to 2001.
Next up was Stuart Haygarth’s PYRE, a tower of electric fires that is a reference to a scene in The Shining.
Leading to many of the other delights on display was the very floor of the corridor, which in itself is an artwork – The Shining Carpet [WT] – an interpretation of the carpet design at the Overlook Hotel, the fictitious location of The Shining, by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.
It is pointless to provide here a laundry list of all the exhibits. Highlights for us included Rubik Kubrick by Invader, where a portrait of the protagonist from A Clockwork Orange is built from individually coloured tiles; Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones’ End Credits, a psychedelic film journey through time and space inspired by 2001; and Kubrick’s Camera by Nancy Fouts (also the artist of Kubrick’s Chair, referred to earlier) that depicts a breathing camera, suggesting that his legacy lives on through his works.
We staggered out from the immersive exhibit into the late afternoon sunshine, and not wanting to relinquish the world of the master so soon, immediately repaired to the cinema to watch a restored print of Barry Lyndon.
Check out snippets from the exhibition below.
Naman Ramachandran is a peripatetic film journalist, author and screenwriter.