There’s a cracking selection of installations and exhibitions that you can currently see for free in the Tate Modern on Bankside.
Created by Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera, the main installation in the Turbine Hall doesn’t do a very good job of getting its message across, but still a lot of fun to interact with.
Most of the hall is covered in glossy black tiles that don’t do anything, but at the far end there is a square covered in an opaque material that interacts with body heat.
You’re instructed to take off your shoes before you can strut on to the heat sensitive area, but then you can make merry watching your footprints (and other body parts) leave a slowly fading impression in white.
The idea of the installation is that if enough people work together to heat up the floor with their bodies, an image of a Syrian refugee is revealed across the floor.
The Tate website explains more:
By using your body heat and working together with other visitors, you can reveal a hidden portrait of Yousef, a young man who left Syria to come to London. Meanwhile, a low-frequency sound fills the space with an unsettling energy. In a small room nearby, an organic compound in the air induces tears and provokes what the artist describes as ‘forced empathy’.
Tania Bruguera engages with ‘the role of emotions in politics’. Her main concerns are institutional power, borders and migration. Her work spans performance, events, action, film, installation, sculpture, writing and teaching alongside site-specific works. Often, she sets out to cause change through her work. She calls this approach Arte Útil (useful art), in which people engage as users rather than spectators.
The only problem was that there was nowhere near enough people moving around to reveal the image, and even if there were sufficient numbers on the tiles, they’d obscure the image anyway.
That said it was still a heap of fun, and while not in the same league as 2003’s wonderful The Weather Project, it was great to have something that invited people to get interactive with the floor of the Tate Modern’s floor.
The deep bass rumble coming from this impressive stack of sub speakers will warm the cockles of any old squat raver.
A small room on the side invited people to come in and “cry together.”
Entering the room, you’re hit by what smells like industrial-strength Vicks Vaporub or a minty muscle rub. It didn’t make me cry but it did a grand job of clearing my nose.
Once again, I don’t think the work managed to make its political point, even if I had burst into tears. There’s nothing on the walls to focus your attention so it just feels like you’ve spent time inside an injured athlete’s jockstrap
With nasal cavities suitably cleared, we headed down into The Tanks, observing the masterful sweeping concrete stairs.
These cartoony videos didn’t do a lot for me.
Created by Robert Therrie, No Title (Table and Four Chairs) is a multi-part sculpture of a dining room set, enlarged to three times its original size.
The colossal sculpture stands over ten feet high, giving you a cat’s eye view of a dining room.
I enjoyed this video piece by artist and ‘private ear’ Lawrence Abu Hamdan.
Entitled Walled Unwalled (2018), the twenty-minute video installation examines a series of legal cases in which evidence was obtained or experienced through walls, doors or floors.
Focusing on crimes experienced at the threshold of perception, it considers how solid structures are increasingly unable to prevent the flow of information or to maintain the barrier between private and public space.
This twenty-minute video installation includes monologues, projected images, moving walls and the performance of different sounds. It was filmed inside the Funkhaus sound studios in East Berlin, previously the broadcast headquarters for the GDR state radio.
We only managed to catch a short portion of the enthralling and at times very funny The Clock, by Christian Marclay, screened on level 2.
The film is a 24 hour compilation of clips from other films which shows clocks, watches and other timepieces, with each clip synchronised with the actual time.
The result of years of research and painstaking editing, it’s a work of absolute genius.
Outside, there’s a large selection of adult sized, three seater swings, which rounded off the afternoon very nicely.
Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Sunday to Thursday 10.00–18.00
Friday to Saturday 10.00–22.00
Admission free (with charges for some exhibitions).