As you stroll through the wide entrance hall of Bermondsey’s White Cube gallery, sound and video depicting bottles rolling along the pavement are cast at foot level from eight digital projectors. Marclay shot the footage for this work, titled ‘Pub Crawl’, as he tapped and kicked the bottles, beer spilling out, during early morning walks after the clubs shut in his East London neighbourhood. Played together, they transform common street sounds into accidental music, and the stark, clean gallery entrance into a grimy side street. Due to the placement of the projectors, visitors’ legs get in the way and create opaque shadows, a small flaw in an otherwise novel idea.
The main attraction of the opening weekend of the show was the London Sinfonietta performing, alongside Marclay, in one of the larger rooms, the perimeter of which has been outfitted with wall long shelves (the kind you might place your drink on in a pub) covered in hundreds of empty pint glasses. A security guard was on hand to shush people who are folding their programs too loudly or coughing. The reason for this is the whole performance is being recorded and cut directly onto a disc master to be pressed onto vinyl in another room which houses a hydraulic record pressing plant created by The Vinyl Factory. The crowd seemed fairly engrossed in the whistling sound created by mic’ing pint glasses – spacey abstract chirping from the Planet Pint Glass – complemented by violin, cello and various percussion instruments, including rattling caps in a glass.
The other side of the room was mostly empty as there was less interest in the paintings that combine the splashing paint of abstract expressionism with screen-printed comic book motifs depicted in a pop-art style. The connection between reading comics and drinking beer made sense to me but may have been less obvious to the more high-minded visitors. It did serve as a bridge between the aforementioned after-hours beer bottles and the incredible comic book installation ‘Surround Sounds’.
For this, Marclay used the Adobe After-Effects app to create animated projections within a darkened room where visitors sit on a carpeted floor bathed in comic book onomatopoeia (WHOOSH!, ZOOOM!, and so on) projected 360 degrees from floor to ceiling. My 16 month-old seemed to have a blast, or rather a BLAST!, chasing after the colourful scans of gnomic phrases. There’s no sound or music but, in the same way that Marclay has always subverted sound into art and back again, the overwhelming effect of seeing this superhero lexicon is unavoidably loud.
Drinking, vinyl records and comic books – this exhibit show covers all the essential elements of the modern world. It’s free entry, but BYOB.