Last year Japanese electronic composer and installation artist Ryoji Ikeda’s light show in Victoria Tower Gardens was briefly the must-see London art work, with long queues of people waiting for their chance to experience it. This year his new installation Supersymmetry is causing less of a stir. Could that be because of its location?
If you want to see Supersymmetry you’ll have to go to Soho’s Brewer Street Car Park. Yes, actually the car park, not somewhere nearby. You enter through the pedestrian entrance and take the stairs (the lift doesn’t go there) to the third floor, follow a dingy corridor as it bends away from you and turn the corner to find a door into a space so black that you have to wait for your eyes to adjust before you can go in.
The installation occupies two huge rooms. In the first, three dazzlingly bright light tables contain what look like ball bearings that roll about to form shapes – some of them surprisingly complex.
In the second room are rows of computer screens with changing displays which translate the trajectories of the ball bearings in the first room into data.
Intermittently there there are flashes of neon light that turn the screens white, and the whole thing is accompanied by a disorienting electronic score that grinds, whines and sings above your head.
One of the reasons for the success of last year’s work, Spectra, was that it was part of the commemoration of the start of the First World War. Plus, it was outside in an attractive green space where people could relax on the grass and contemplate the beams of light peacefully stretching up into the sky. Supersymmetry is grittier and more science-oriented.
It’s the result of Ikeda’s residency at the Centre For Nuclear Research (CERN), the world’s largest particle physics research institute, where they’re currently trying to find evidence for supersymmetry, a theoretical mathematical model that helps explain why particles have mass. If they can find the supersymmetry particle they can fix the mass of the Higgs Bosun particle and extend the Standard Model of the universe.
Leaving the scientific theory on one side, the immersive experience that is Ikeda’s Supersymmetry is like nothing else you’ll see in London, but you’ll have to be quick to catch it as it closes this Sunday, 31st May. The show, by The Vinyl Factory is open Tuesday to Sunday, 12 to 6 pm.