An afternoon spent wandering through the Tate Modern raised some interesting (for me) thoughts.
One, Two, Three, Swing! Is the Turbine Hall installation at the moment. It is intended to raise speculation about global financialism, capitalist apathy, and the power of collective action. In one respect, yes, I understand that; however what struck me most was the tangled orange pipes, sculptural in their own right, twisting out of sight and out of the gallery. For me, this represents the potentiality of artistic action to spread beyond the place of its inception. Though this is possibly wishful thinking, coming from someone involved in the arts.
Some of my classmates on the swings
From the Turbine Hall I went to the fourth floor of the Blavatnik Building, and worked my way back down. Some of the pieces that struck me were, naturally, those related in some way to performance and performative action.
In 160cm Line Tattooed on 4 People by Santiago Sierra, a grainy video shows the artist tattooing, as the name suggests, a line across the backs of four women. These women are, we are told, heroin addicted sex workers, and they were paid for their time in drugs. This, for me, raises ethical questions about exploitation and participation, and where the two intersect: the women were obviously consenting adults, but are they able to consent clearly given that they are addicts? The symbolism of the work itself was also interesting: is the line representative of the line of drugs? Does it reflect the mark left by a whip, raising issues of slavery and submission? There is also the element of the Freak Show in the work: the women are being displayed in a gallery as art, as Other, and we are invited to witness a branding process. By presenting the work to an audience, the artist implicates the viewer, and forces us to confront our own place in the cycle of power relations.
In this same exhibition were many of the works we looked at last week, including Rhythm 0, One Year Performance, and Good Boy Bad Boy. It was nice to see some of the work we previously discussed in situ.
Making art out of opinions of art!
Some of the work confused me more than anything else. I didn't get the name of the piece but there was a sheet metal sculpture under glass. The information board stated that the artist had intended for the work to be participatory, with each sheet being movable and repositionable, so that viewers became participants in this ongoing, changing work. However it is now rigid, untouchable, only viewable. If this is not what the artist intended, why is the gallery displaying it in this way? I get that it's probably a security thing, but this malleable work is now fixed and untouchable which undermines the original intention and therefore the point of the work.
There is an exhibition running called Citizens showing art which is intended to make a social or political point, including Guerilla Girls, who comment on the lack of women in art. One work that particularly struck me was Flag I by Teresa Margolles; a canvas saturated in mud and blood from Mexican murder scenes, which was hung outside the Mexican Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009, forcing viewers to confront that which is usually hidden, or think about the things we wish we could ignore. By presenting this grisly object as art, once again we are implicated in the consumer and capital relationship.
There is plenty to see across the museum. I have an odd relationship with Modern Art: in one respect I like work that makes me think, that I can interpret as having a particular sociological or political motivation (although sometimes I resent being ‘told’ what the point is!). However, in another way, I like things that are just nice to look at! I could have stayed in the room with Olafur Eliasson’s Yellow versus Purple all afternoon!