AL and AL: Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse

Walking into this exhibition, the immediate realisation is the abandonment, or reversal of the white cube. The refreshingly black walls make for a more intense and all-encompassing experience, as though the whole exhibition is like the little black cube, so often found in art galleries, like a little cinema amongst the exhibition space. It’s because of this break from boring post-modern tradition of white walls for paintings and black cubes for films that this exhibition doesn’t feel like a regular multidisciplinary art show, it feels more like science than art, which is sort of the idea. We live in a world now where science and art are not seen as polar opposites, but different ways of asking questions and challenging our understanding of established ideas.

Rather than challenging ideas or asking the big scientific questions, you get the impression that AL and AL are simply looking for a great story to tell. With clear influences in science fiction, psychedelia and existentialism, The Creator takes us on two disturbingly nightmarish but brilliant journeys; one from the mind of Alan Turing, the creator of artificial intelligence; and another from the future, from the artificial lifeforms he unwittingly invented, desperately seeking the meaning of their existence. These films, displayed in separate rooms, never quite meet, like the creator and the created, but jolt with one another in the mind of the viewer, making it almost impossible to separate them as individual pieces of work despite being in separate rooms, or centuries.

The drawings displayed in the main room, near the entrance to the show, although brilliant, do not demand the viewer’s attention quite like the outstanding films do, but rather add a certain texture to the overall exhibition. The drawings, like the films are set into three journeys and tell different stories with a general theme of time travel and the unexplored multiverse.

Journey One: Icarus at the Edge of Time has to be the highlight of the show. Made in collaboration with the pioneering composer Philip Glass and the famous physicist, Professor Brian Greene, this innovational odyssey takes us on a journey from the past, to the present and into the future simultaneously and with entrancing effect. Described as a triptych, it is installed across three joining screens, each playing one part of the film. This method of display, appropriate due to the subject, disturbs our perception of time by showing three parts simultaneously, there-by disrupting conventional cinematic display; the linear narrative. It can be said that the linear narrative is the fundamentally essential characteristic of film, that there is a certain order to the relentless flow of images and that it takes a certain amount of time to watch. Altering this method of conventional viewing in this context alters our perception of time and space and we are left feeling enthralled and mesmerised.

Neil Greenhalgh is an artist and writer based in Manchester.

Image courtesy of HOME.

AL and AL: Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse, HOME, Manchester.

6 February – 10 April 2016.