How Stanley Kubrick Still Influences Artists, Filmmakers, and Musicians Today

'Daydreaming with...Stanley Kubrick' looks at the iconic director's huge cultural influence, from set design to music, visuals arts, and more.

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Jul 5 2016, 2:15pm


Somerset House staff looks at Nancy Fouts work for 'Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick' at  Somerset House. 

Mention filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and everyone’s got a favorite movie, scene, character, line of dialogue. His appeal is felt by film nerds, casual movie watchers, artists, designers, students, photographers, butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers—OK the last couple might be pushing it, but the point is that his reach and influence are felt across a broad range of disciplines, social group,s and cultures, sub, counter-, or otherwise. Everywhere from film to video games, music to interior design, you can feel and see his mark. 

A new exhibition Daydreaming with...Stanley Kubrick at London's Somerset House, five years in the making by musician and Mo' Wax co-founder James Lavelle and curator James Putnam, looks to explore and showcase Kubrick's                 massive appeal and legacy. It features a range of works by artists who are, in some way or another, inspired by the director and his work.

To start with the exhibition space itself is even Kubrickian, there are around 16 rooms coming off long corridors. On the floor is the immediately recognisable hexagonal pattern from the Overlook Hotel's carpet in The Shining. Here it's been recreated by artists Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, enticing the visitor to come, explore, get lost, meet some terrifying twins.


'Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick' at  Somerset House, 6 July - 24 August (c) Peter Macdiarmid, Courtesy Somerset House.

Featured in the show are works by a large roster of over 60 artists, including names like Marc Quinn, Mat Collishaw, Anish Kapoor, Doug Aitken, Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter, Samantha Morton, Sarah Lucas, street artists Futura and Invader, even Kubrick's wife Christiane Kubrick. Her piece—a portrait of her husband sitting in their garden in Hertfordshire, England looking out at the waterlilies—is like many in the show in that it hasn't been especially created. Instead many of the pieces, direct or otherwise, reference motifs, scenes, and themes in Kubrick's movies. 

Some pieces have more abstract associations, like Anish Kapoor's collaboration with Haroon Mirza, Bit Bang Mirror (2013-2015). Created independently from the show it features a concave mirror, blue LED lights, and discordant audio—a disorientating experience that ties in with the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Doug Aitken's piece is Twilight from 2014 and is an otherworldly payphone that glows luminously. It was picked for the exhibition as a nod to the absurd scene in Dr. Strangelove when Group Captain Lionel Mandrake uses a payphone to try and call the president to avert nuclear disaster, but they won't take a collect call.


'Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick' at  Somerset House, 6 July - 24 August (c) Peter Macdiarmid, Courtesy Somerset House

Along with these interpretations are the commissioned work which takes the form of sculpture, VR, an unsettling "breathing" Graflex camera, a giant director's chair, an ape inside a space helmet, even a 2001-inspired scent. Enter one small dark room and you are confronted with a freezer containing a waxwork life-size replica of the director himself, made out like the frosty corpse of Jack Torrance at the end of The Shining. It's called The Second Law, by London artist Paul Fryer and it's both macabre and amusing.

Another image of Kubrick is Chris Levine's piece Mr Kubrick is Looking, an entirely creepy LED portrait of the director that can only be glimpsed in your peripheral vision as your turn your head—only then are you suddenly given a flash of the director's face in a 'Here's Stanley!' unnerving appearance.


Requiem for 114 Radios by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. Photo Credit Toby Farrow

There is also a room decked out with 114 analogue radios, each broadcasting individual voices belonging to singers like Beth Orton, Jehnny Beth from Savages, Jarvis Cocker, and many others. The piece, which takes over a whole room and is like you're stepping into a film set, is 

Called Requiem for 114 radios the voices occasionally harmonise while performing "Dies Irae" a Latin hymn used in The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. The 114 refers to the fictional device, the CRM 114 Discriminator, from Dr. Strangelove and is a number that recurs in various Kubrick films: 114 is a pod in 2001, a serum injected into Alex in A Clockwork Orange, and crops up in Eyes Wide Shut as a room number in a mortuary. 


'Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick' at  Somerset House, 6 July - 24 August (c) Peter Macdiarmid, Courtesy Somerset House 

One of the most immersive and enjoyable pieces just from a sheer Kubrick fan perspective is filmmaker Norbert Schoerner's Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums. It's a meticulous computer-generated virtual reality recreation of the scene from 2001 where Dr. Francis Poole is jogging vertically in a circular room punching the air as he goes. In the VR work you pop on an Oculus headset and become Poole, able to look around 360 degrees as the room rotates around you. "It's the idea that maybe Kubrick would have used virtual reality, it's really based on that. " Schoerner explains.

Schoerner and a team at VR production studio Happy Finish, used screenshots from the movie to exactly replicate the centrifuge interior in the Discovery One spaceship from the film. In a brilliant display of supreme nerdiness the whole thing is identical, they replicated the consoles, the exact number of tables and chairs, the pods, even the graphics on the computer screens you glance as you go past. The dimensions were the same too—it's an eye for detail that in itself is a tribute to Kubrick's own legendary perfectionism. 


'Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick' at  Somerset House, 6 July - 24 August (c) Peter Macdiarmid, Courtesy Somerset House

It all serves as a reminder—not that anyone needed reminding—of how much a cultural shadow Kubrick has cast. Whether that's someone dressing up as a bowler-hatted Alex for fancy dress, The Simpsons featuring yet another Kubrick reference, or Siri responding to you asking her to "Open the pod bay doors, HAL.," or r the numerous artworks in this exhibition. 

"I can't think of any other filmmaker whose influence transcends so many creative spheres." notes Lavelle. "From set design, to music, to pioneering film techniques, Kubrick was a true visionary who continues to provide a rich source of inspiration for artists across the board."


'Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick' at  Somerset House, 6 July - 24 August (c) Peter Macdiarmid, Courtesy Somerset House


'Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick' at  Somerset House, 6 July - 24 August (c) Peter Macdiarmid, Courtesy Somerset House

Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick is on from July 6 to 24 August 2016 at West Wing, Somerset House, London. Visit Somerset House's website here. Visit the exhibition's website here.

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