Having taken over The Old Vic Tunnels for the second year in a row, the subterranean space connected to the famous South London theatre, street art gallerist Steve Lazarides has seriously upped the ante for his latest exhibition, 'Minotaur'. Incorporating a deeply disconcerting maze featuring a sonic installation by Thom Yorke, a large-scale mesmerizing abstract film projection reflected in an ominous and regal pool of water, two sculptures made from what appear to be dead rats, graphic footage of bullfighting shown on loop in a cinema and a lavish secret pop-up restaurant by German restaurateurs Pret A Diner, amongst other things, this is more visual theatre than your average art exhibition.
Intent on bringing his distinctive brand of art to a wider audience than just that of the so called “white cube”, Lazarides has always strived to make art accessible and enjoyable as well as challenging and conceptual. With Minotaur he builds on this ethos with grand gestures. Bringing together Stanley Donwood, Jonathan Yeo, Antony Micallef, Conor Harrington, Doug Foster, 3D, Ian Francis, ATMA, Zevs, Michael Najjar and Lucy McLauchlan, all from Steve's own stable of artists, Minotaur sets out to provide a distinctly alternative destination to this weeks numerous Frieze events.
Dazed Digital: This is your second exhibition at The Old Vic Tunnels. How have you built on the show you did last year?
Steve Lazarides: Something like Lucy McLauchlan's piece, at the beginning of the show, brings in sound, sculpture, light and shadow. It adds a further element of visual entertainment to the whole thing and that's what we wanted to do. We wanted to make the whole show more interactive. We actually give people an experience rather than just looking at paintings on a wall, in a white box.
DD: When you first saw the tunnels, what was it that inspired you to think it was possible to turn them into an exhibition space?
Steve Lazarides: The creative director of the Old Vic Tunnels, Hamish Jenkinson, first brought me here and when I saw it I told him he was a fucking lunatic.
Hamish Jenkinson: ...And then thousands and thousands of people turned up for the show last year.
DD: Did you see it as moving street art into a space that showed it as an 'exhibition' but offered more than the confines of the traditional gallery?
Hamish Jenkinson: I think the fuckers with the white cube spaces have had their time. It's fine, they did their stuff, the YBA's helped create the scene in London today, but now they are fat and lazy and its all business to them.
Steve Lazarides: He said that by the way, not me. I agree with him, but let it be noted I didn't say it.
Hamish Jenkinson: There are other people who view art another way. I feel that walking through an art fair is like walking through Waitrose, it's good quality products on the shelves but it's packed to the rafters.
Steve Lazarides: This year I have been to art fairs all around the world, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and it is always the same, they are what it says on the tin, an 'art fair'. My wife used to work in fashion and I would go to material fairs, and its the same. They are all a supermarket of something.
Hamish Jenkinson: Thats why I'm excited to be working with Steve, because he gives artists space and allows them to present their work theatrically in crazy environments.
Steve Lazarides: And I'm magnificent at losing money while doing it.
DD: Is the theatricality of the show important to you?
Steve Lazarides: Yeah, I like there to be a degree of entertainment about something. I get asked to attend private views all the time and I just feel that if you're asking for an hour of my time, then entertain me and challenge me. That's what I'm trying to do.
DD: Although the title and theme of the show is 'Minotaur' a few of the artists have presented work that has a political element. Did you expect that?
Steve Lazarides: If you own a gig venue and you like a band and book them, what they do on that stage is down to them. It's the same here. I don't feel my job is to sit back and tell people how to make art, it's just to give them a platform. The only way you're ever going to get something truly great from someone is to give them the space to do what they truly want to do. I can't draw a fucking stick man but what I can do is provide a platform to bring thousands of people to see the work, and hopefully be entertained.
'Minotaur' is on show at The Old Vic Tunnels, Waterloo, until 25 October, 2011