Various Artists:The Infinite Mix Hayward Gallery off-site (9 September – 4 December)
While the Hayward is closed for two years, this exhibition of audiovisual art helps fill the gap. It's being hosted on the other side of the river in an empty office block on the Strand, where various former workspaces have been sectioned off and filled with screens, and it's free to look around. The full tour includes ten different installations and a lot of wandering around the building, from the second floor to the basement car park, with individual durations ranging from four minutes to six hours. This means engaging repeatedly with the key dilemmas of any looped video presentation - how far into the film have I entered, what the hell is going on, is it worth staying to watch all the way round to the point I walked in, and will I recognise when that is?
Martin Creed's up first with the shortest piece, as various 'challenged' people cross a sideroad in New York, followed by an extended jamming session in the room next door. The music is one of the best things about the overall exhibition, never obvious, often alluring, and occasionally mesmeric. Room three is in the round, as a 75 year-old beat poet appears on several screens and applauds the disappointments of his life, while the next room whisks us to Compton in LA for a youthful African-American insight. The weirdest presentation is Jeremy Deller's Bom Bom's Dream, a surreal cartoonlike mix of chameleons and provocative dancing featuring larger than life scissoring fishnets. And that's immediately contrasted by an astronaut reflecting on his spacewalk, with the South Bank silhouetted through the fabric screen from the other side of the river.
Part of the experience is the opportunity to wander round a dead office block, past former meeting rooms and graffitied stairwells. It's therefore a bit of a shock to push open some double doors halfway round and find a fully branded cafe space complete with cake and comfy sofas, on which are sitting most of the people you've been wandering around the exhibition with. After thirty minutes (or thirty seconds) it's onwards to some young men humping living room furniture, which I'm afraid didn't stick around to see the end of, so might have improved. More intriguing was the video of nylon stockings being made, with a seemingly irrelevant commentary via headphones, then an operatic hologram warbling in a doorway. Finally it's 3D specs on for some aerial nighttime action, the highlight being a firework's-eye view of Berlin, although the windy trees were unexpectedly memorable. I was amazed to discover I'd spent two hours in the building, eyes opened and brain engaged, although I expect the Infinite Mix is not for everyone. [Most engaging - Time Out ★★★★★] [Best avoided - Londonist ★☆☆☆☆]