Lee Boroson creates large-scale immersive installations using inflatables, fabric, and light to create phenomenological experiences for his viewers, based on the elemental forces in nature, from air, fog, and smoke to fire and the cosmos. Boroson’s work begins with ideas of nature, which he mediates between the landscape-as-culture as opposed to notions of the outdoors as “wild” or “untamed”. Boroson’s installations are embodied and ephemeral at the same time. They transform both material and experience within the space of the museum.

For MASS MoCA’s signature football field-sized Building 5 gallery, Boroson will create an ambitious new installation consisting of four components: The Fog, The Falls, The Crypt, and The Lava Field. After moving through them sequentially, viewers will reach the mezzanine, a vantage point from which they can see the first two sections of the landscape resolve as a single image.

Setting the stage for the exhibition, The Fog wipes away structural landmarks to leave behind a sense of negative space, priming viewers for the rest of the show. Multi-layered and intricate, it consists of clear, polished vinyl sheeting sewn with colored thread and arranged to create passageways that lead into divided rooms. Every surface is mostly transparent and punctuated with pieces of reflective material and color that alter one’s perception and sense of the scale of the space. Comparable to moving through shifting fog, viewers in this segment will stumble upon the occasional clear view through the haze and then lose it to obscuring layers of vinyl, partially opaque yet still penetrated by light.

After navigating The Fog, viewers will enter The Falls, a subtle, referential ode to the tourist’s experience of visiting Niagara Falls. Complete with an overwhelming white noise much like that of the actual site, this construction will stretch from ceiling to floor and, using conveyor belts and blowers, constantly spout streams of reflective spheres. Like a fountain, the material will move cyclically up and down, building a sense of timelessness and adding movement to the exhibition. The silvery spheres mirror their surroundings and, when in motion, effectively re-create the sensation of falling water. In its man-made elements and aesthetic, The Falls relates to Niagara as a highly engineered and controlled arena designed to emulate nature.

The two mezzanine galleries represent the earth and fire components of the exhibition, both using variations of geological structures. The Crypt comprises an array of inflatable fabric forms molded into stalactites to evoke the architecture of the underworld, providing room for contemplation in a dark, primordial chamber. Directly above, on the second level of the mezzanine, The Lava Field is a “field” of hand-blown glass shapes containing lava-like fluids that recall the iconic imagery of “lava lamps.” In each of the 100+ vessels will be an oozing, burbling liquid display, similar to that of the inside of a lava lamp. Boroson has concocted his own fluids, all in variations of white, to create this virtual lava field and the accompanying illusion of lava leaking out of the mezzanine floor.

Over the autumnal months, Camden Arts Centre presents Glenn Ligon: Call and Response, the first exhibition in a UK public gallery for the celebrated American artist.

One of America’s most distinguished contemporary artists, Ligon (b.1960) has been deeply engaged with the written word throughout his career. Drawing attention to the problems of language and representation, he addresses pressing and challenging topics of race, language and sexuality. His works reconsider and re-present American history, especially narratives of slavery and civil rights, within a contemporary context. Best known for his stencilled text based paintings, he weaves together wide-ranging influences from literature, visual arts and popular culture. Over the past 10 years, Ligon has also been dedicated to interrogating these themes through his prolific and astute writing and interviews.

For his exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, Ligon presents a new series of large paintings based on the 1966 seminal taped-speech work, Come Out, by Minimalist composer Steve Reich. Come Out is drawn from the testimony of six black youths arrested for committing a murder during the Harlem Race Riot of 1964. Known as the ‘Harlem Six’, the case galvanised civil rights activists for a generation, bringing to attention police brutality against black citizens. Echoing Reich’s overlapping repetition of words and phrases, Ligon’s silkscreen paintings overlay the words to create slowly shifting and rhythmic effects.

Ligon is creating a new neon work, which draws on the words of Daniel Hamm, one of the ‘Harlem Six’, describing the police beatings. Neon letters, suspended for visitors to walk amongst, blink on and off in a cycle reflecting Reich’s work. Ligon’s neon works continue his interest in pushing text and speech to the point of abstraction. As with his paintings, they encourage the viewer to oscillate between reading and looking.

A new multi-screen video work uses footage of comedian Richard Pryor’s 1982 stand-up performance, Live on Sunset Strip. Ligon has reorganised and refilmed the recorded material to emphasise Pryor’s emphatic body language, movement and expressions, removing articulated words to focus on body language and the performative delivery of speech.

Centred around an augmented and appended version of the new multi-screen video work Ribbons, Atkins’s exhibition transforms the Serpentine Sackler Gallery into a submersive environment of syncopated sounds, bodies and spaces. This is his largest solo exhibition in a UK public institution to date.

Ribbons (2014) will have its UK premiere at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in a site-specific adaptation. Presented alongside installations of text and images, accompanying videos and tourettic interjections, the exhibition will underscore the ambivalent relationship that exists between real and virtual objects; between real and virtual conditions.

“The Sackler exhibition will re-possess some sort of sub-horror genre; the old powder rooms, haunted by the phantom smell of gunpowder, paranoia and anticipation of violence, will emphasise a particularly phantasmatic aspect of Ribbons; the protagonist’s questionable corporeality, their presence, their performance of loss and monstrousness” – Ed Atkins

Sounds from a suite of synchronised projections positioned throughout the Gallery will lead the visitor through the space, with glimpses of song, swells of orchestra, murmuring voices and waves of sub-bass. Ribbons is part musical, part horror, and part melodrama; Bach’s Erbarme Dichand Randy Newman’s I think it’s going to rain today are two of the songs featured. Naked, lonely and misanthropic, the palpable melancholy of Atkins’s Computer Generated avatar hero is ‘rendered’ as HD graphic, troll, voyeur and, perhaps, artist.

Atkins’s work draws attention to the way in which we perceive, communicate and filter information. His videos combine layered images with incomplete or interrupted excerpts of singing, speech, subtitles and handwriting. Working with a specialist in computer generated animation, Atkins exploits the hyperreal surfaces produced by new software systems to create complex, nightmarish environments populated by virtual characters, avatars of ambiguous provenance and desires. Atkins has described the male figure that appears in these works as ‘a character that is literally a model, is demonstrably empty – a surrogate and a vessel’. Despite the emotive music and poetic syntax of the protagonists, their emptiness serves to remind the three-dimensional, warm-bodied viewer of their own physicality.

The experience of the physical body in Atkins’s show will be contrasted with and complemented by the durational performance being undertaken by Marina Abramović, whose exhibition runs concurrently at the Serpentine Gallery.