In conjunction with NTS Radio, Chinese artist Zhang Ding has remodelled the ICA into a ‘transmuting sound sculpture’, a glittering den of veiled mirror reflections that bounce strobe lights across the room, fuelled by discordant guitar riffs and scuzzy bass. Taking its title from the Bruce Lee film, Enter the Dragon is a vista of pure imagination.
The opening moments of Zhang Ding; Enter the Dragon: performance #1: Bo Ningen x Powell are other-wordy. Re-orienting myself, it appears the walls of the ICA are lined with reflective mirrors, warping and twisting the reflections of the crowd gathering. Multiple panelled mirrors rhythmically rotate in constant flux upon identical stages at either end of the gallery space, an act allotted to each. These space-age panels blinkingly obscure Bo Ningen and at the opposite end of the room, Powell.
As the space starts to swell, Powell begins an aural assault upon the unsuspecting audience–industrially rhythmic melodies spill from the PA mounted on Powell’s side of the room, seemingly human samples cry out, and his set grabs the attention of the participants, who shuffle about. The musicians quickly become secondary to the luminous blue & gold installation.
Powell plays another 6-7 minutes until Bo Ningen begin to collaborate with his garage trance noise, they beat in accordance with his closing composition until Powell’s rhythmic tangencies become none other than Taigen’s vocal chants and sub groove. Bo Ningen is tuned into this spontaneous improvisation–their soundscapes socially merge, and take over from Powell with the synchronicity of kraut pros.
The atmosphere in the room changes with the ever forming soundscapes, and after each artist has played a couple of times, switching and playing over the other’s sound, the crowd appear to take on a new approach to absorbing the exhibit: people begin to face each other in the centre of the room, and simply turn toward the sound as it approaches, the dynamic changes with this, and the show takes on a new form, the audience seem to relax into the idea of an ever changing performance, and ‘go with the flow’.
The performance is a medley of visual therapy, with a side order of sonic discovery — we barely knew what hit us (& I can’t wait for the next one)
Zhang Ding: Enter the Dragon will be running at ICA, London, in collaboration with K11 Art Foundation, until 25 October, with a different line up each evening. All images Courtesy K11 Art Foundation