Walker Art Gallery
Until 26th February 2017
Reviewed by Ashley McGovern
Benedict Drew’s KAPUT (2015), part of the Arts Council Collection now on show at the Walker Art Gallery, is a psychedelic dronathon. Using video installation, Day-Glo portraiture, wire, string and a pulsing feedback loop, Drew has created a truly harrowing experience. The room looks like a futuristic operating theatre, full of battered tech and that ever-grinding drone.
In the centre lies a pulverised corpse made of string, pink legwarmers and hardened foam, which is surrounded by blurring speakers and TV screens showing the movements of a spaceship. Four sculptures with strange tinfoil tops stand in the corners of the room as though they are watching a ritual take place. Presiding above the occult situation is a large portrait of billionaire Virgin mogul Richard Branson, who has orange wires dangling out of his eyes that connect up elements of the installation. Needless to say it’s a chaotic spaced-out mess, an other-dimensional trip gone horribly wrong.
Over the past few years there has been a growing contemporary scene dedicated to mind-quivering psychedelic vibes, clearly witnessed in the popular Liverpool Psych Festival. This year’s festival, for example, offered a newly constructed PZYK COLONY, an immersive 360-degree cube that turned the Camp and Furnace industrial floor into an “intense, singular, light-emitting diode, a trance-den-cum-live-space” that hosted the line-up of international retro-psych groups.
The description of the thumping PZYK COLONY sounds uncannily like Drew’s work, yet the politics of his bruising installation imply a darker abandon. Psych festivals are cool hipster hangouts, whereas KAPUT is a gloomy failure of the psychedelic message.
As we enter we are immediately warned by a wall of punk posters that the fun-loving hippies of the 1960s eventually got rich: Branson himself went from one-time hip record shop owner to the owner of Virgin Galactic, one of a few private space tourism companies established by tycoons to bring space travel to the rich customer. The body in the centre of KAPUT is wired into Branson’s scheme for the super-rich and is suffering.
KAPUT has the initial set-up of a psychedelic festival for trendy millennials but the disgust and disastrous ruin of a punk concert. Benedict Drew has brought together these two themes of pop culture and the exhibition has a grinding, confusing brilliance.