Firstly, if you’ve not caught up with my travels so far you’ll find part one here (link)
So – you join me on a day trip to London – a city I previously vowed never to go to again thanks to some bad personal experiences, and a whole boatload of long held and probably pointless negative opinions.
I haven’t told you yet (my mysterious and enigmatic reader) but I’m actually rather enjoying myself. At this point I’ve just departed from the British Museum and I’m on my way to the Tate Modern.
It’s a really nice day today too – which helps.
I have some really chilled out tunes (LTJ Bukem’s album – Journey Inwards) on my headphones too which drowns out the traffic a bit and sets the tone.
By the time I arrive at the Tate Modern it’s 12.35.
It’s full disclosure time. I’m laying my cultural credentials on the table.
I’ve been here before.
When I did I found myself faced with Tracy Emin’s ‘My bed’ (link) and like many others came to the conclusion that I didn’t consider it art.
Since then whenever considering ‘Modernism’ from an aesthetic perspective I find it leaves me feeling spiritually… well… rather under nourished. However, here and there (very occasionally) I find myself drawn to something a bit leftfield and it piques my attention.
Also, I’m trying to be more open minded in general.
The one thing that I did think last time though was that the cathedral like space of the Tate Modern was in itself a work of art – and despite my expectations I found that the brutal concrete post modern aesthetic that runs through it like Blackpool in a stick of rock is what I wanted to experience again.
It’s still there. In spades.
Last time it was a challenge though. The very scope and scale that makes it so visually pleasing to the eye is also the main thing that limited my enjoyment during the previous visit.
Frankly the place previously tired me out.
I really really struggled with climbing all of the stairs whilst navigating from one end of this huge building to the other (It’s nearly 35,000 square metres) and from the bottom to the top and back.
There are eight or nine floors depending on how you look at it, and more if you count climbing up and down the other side of it too.
I guess that moving through the space however is part of the experience here though and this time I vowed not to use a single escalator.
The lifts when I passed them proved hilarously amusing however – and every time I strolled by one there seemed to be a variety of oddly shaped people – mostly with with really strange hairstyles and some with very ill fitting (but clearly expensive and exclusive) garments crammed into them waiting for the doors to close.
It seemed to be the theme that despite there being many lifts only one appeared to be arriving and no-one wanted to get in or out – or use the stairs. They just bunched ever closer to the back wall and eachother and waited for the door to close as if an invisible force field was pushing them further and further in.
As I watched I didn’t see a single door close on one of them – and initially I began to wonder if this too was an exhibit. I was the only one in a well populated museum climbing up and down these cavernously beautiful spiral staircases and I couldn’t understand why.
Finally admitting that I’d eventually have to go and look at some art I eventually found myself in a room themed around objects and architecture.
Aesthetically this was a mixed bag for me. Some I liked, such as the hanging pagoda style installation themed around science fiction (it’s related to Isaac Asimov – who knew?!)
The rest seemed to me me like they were just bricks and cement – and I found it hard to view them as anything deeper than that – despite them actually being very inoffensivebricks and cement.
Others however seemed to be a little more amusing (at least to me) and it’s hard to argue against the need for a giant pink ice cube in anyone’s living space.
If I resided in a massive glass of lemonade then I’d get one immediately.
However – whilst I may not appreciate the effort it took to stack crates on top of burnt wood and buckets or cement piles of bricks together (despite the interested crowds and conversation they seemed to be attracting) I was immeasurably impressed by the effect created inside an innocuous looking mirrored box in the corner of the room.
The only way to do this justice is with a video – and even that doesn’t really compare to just being there and looking inside.
Having had a ‘hmmmm – what does it all mean?’ moment I almost looked at the card on the wall, but then stopped myself.
I resolved instead to read nothing about the works I saw from that point onwards and instead just try and process how they made me feel.
In some cases the word was disgusted.
In another room there was a grainy VHS video of an artist in Brazil who had paid three prostitutes addicted to heroin to have a tattoo of his choosing on their backs for the price of a fix.
The going rate apparently for a shot of heroin worked out to three blow jobs.
I know it’s intent was to provoke – but it’s not art.
I moved quickly on (past some rather nice metal shapes on the floor bordered by pictures of agriculture) to the next room.
This was absolutely packed with pictures of a man who had taken a photo of himself every day for a yearand then put them together in a time lapse.
I know that part and parcel of art is to subvert and provoke, as well as to layer meaning – but honestly this all seemed to me like a giant waste of some guy’s time.
As a study of how time changes an individual I can see it’s merit – but otherwise I couldn’t help but think that he could have been doing something far more productive.
The problem with this (maybe rather limited) perspective though is that a few minutes later I turned a corner to another scene that someone spent absolutely AGES creating (once again for no point other than aesthetics) and despite myself I found that I rather loved a room full of pebble like burlap sacks roughly sewn into organic shapes.
It really does make one question how we should apply the word ‘art’.
Sure – it doesn’t really take much skill to photograph yourself every day (even I can do that) but who’s to say that it’s any less or more important in the grand scheme of things than a Ming or Quing Vase?
A vase doesn’t make me smirk in quite the same way as some of the more suggestive things I found as I wandered through another door into another slightly darker room.
As I made my way through the building ( as well as feeling progressively more worn out) I realised that what I appreciated the most about the whole endeavour was space and the more minimal and cavernous something was, the more I appeared to like it.
The mirrors showed an effect that went on forever, and the rooms that contained (apparent) simplicity in a large format rather than condensed confusion were the ones that I gravitated towards the most.
I’d even go as far as to say that if i possessed a huge loft apartment and infinite resources then I too might be tempted to whitewash the lot and empty a builders yard into it to see what I could make – but in the absence of this possibility coming to pass I think I’ll have to stick with my two Buddhas at home.
Having walked around almost the entire building though I not only felt very satisfiedthat I’d done it all under my own steam, but also quite tired.
I’d also run out of coffee.
Then, all of a sudden I received a text from a friend and opened it to have a look.
‘Check out the natural history museum.’ it said. They have a really cool robot dinosaur!’
Well. What can you say to that? My friend knows me well. A ROBOT FRIKKIN DINOSAUR?!!! Shut up and take my money London!!!!
I looked at my watch. Nearly 2pm.
I could pass Big Ben (I enjoy huge clocks almost as much as I loved the giant knockers and massive helmets in part one!) on the way and then move on to the train station. Surely it wouldn’t take that long to get there…
It didn’t look far at all on the little map on my phone – just a few dots stood between me and a ROBOT FRIKKIN DINOSAUR!!!
Join me for part three internet to see what happened next!