There are many works of notable art at the Tate Modern–so many that I could spend an entire day there, chin in my hand, head cocked to one side, imagining worlds and dimensions. Someday, I’d like to do some creative writing inside of an art museum such as the Tate. What kind of work would such an environment produce? Which artist would produce the kernel of a brilliant idea? Which artist would help me persevere? What connections and sparks would occur in a collective artistic conscience?

I saw works by Matisse, Picasso, Bacon (no Frankenthaler! Ever since I saw the Bacon/Frankenthaler show at LACMA years ago, I have weirdly associated the two as a strict, yet unlikely pair), Chagall, Rodin, Warhol, Miro, Koons, Pollock and so many others…including one interesting piece of art by Piero Manzoni called “Artist’s shit.”

(Think about it: When you say it (“Artist’s Shit”) out loud, it SOUNDS like, “Art is shit,” I giggled out loud as I peered at it, but I don’t think people realized why I was laughing). Well, that’s the humor of the writer that I am.

The work itself? (I thought of sneaking a picture, but I’d already been admonished, “No photography allowed here” when I tried to take a (non-flash) picture of a Chagall). It’s an old can reminscent of a can of tuna or cat food. Manzoni made several of these cans, according to the description, presumably containing his excrement (or his “shit.”)

I whispered to my husband, “If he made SEVERAL cans, I would NOT have resisted OPENING one of the cans to find out for sure if they contain his shit!” Curiosity would have killed this cat, or, piece of art. I “can” only assume that it would continue to be a piece of art, as an opened object…it would just then be a remnant of “performance art.” I know, this debate could go on for awhile, and the identity of the object as you see, could take on so many dimensions.

I’m chuckling again. “Art is shit.” Huhuhuhuhhhhuhuhh.

I haven’t had so much fun at an art museum…in ages! There were the Unilever Series “test site” slides by Carsten Holler, transparent tubes that you could slide down–from the fifth, fourth (closed today), third, and first floors. We saw some art, we slid down the tube, then saw more art–viewing, experiencing, viewing. There were those who screamed all the way down to the bottom, their echoes piercing the huge space, bodies hurtling through twisting tubes that look like the things that occupy guinea pigs in their cages. I couldn’t resist screaming with delight, myself.

There was a pamphlet with an interview of Carsten Holler. One of the notable things he said about his slides was:

The slide is an object that we associate with playgrounds, amusement parks and emergency exits. I’d like to extend the use of the slide: I don’t see any reason why slides should only be used by children and in the case of an emergency. The Turbine Hall installation is called “Test Site” because it enables visitors to test the functions of differently shaped slides, mainly to see how they are affected by them, to test what it really means to slide. Again, this applies both for those who actively engage in the process of sliding, and those who watch. People coming down the slides have a particular expression on their faces, they’re affected and to some degree “changed.” This aspect of my installation is very spectacular…because the performers become spectators [of their own inner spectacle] while going down the slides, and are being watched at the same time by those outside the slides…

They’re [sic] a device for experiencing an emotional state that is a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness. It was described in the fifties by the French writer Roger Caillois as “a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind.”

Amazing. I was performing and experiencing all at once, in a voluptuous panic.



Filed under Life, The World, Travel

5 responses to “Tate

  1. w

    My birthday’s in a couple of weeks, and my boy’s going to take the day off with me to head off to a museum. Don’t know which yet, but your post is making me so look forward to the trip.

  2. mysticonnie

    I’ve always wanted to visit the Tate. Your visit sounds so fun! I find the MOMA here in the Bay Area is rather mediocre. Although I’m not much of a photographer, I’m always tempted to take “forbidden” photos in museums. When I tried to snap one of the Mona Lisa (she’s real blurry), my companion/host edged away from me in a not-too-subtle way.

  3. The Tate surprised me–the selection is not as expansive as the MOMA in NYC but the setup here is grand, the space spectacular (I agree about the mediocrity of SFMOMA and…the SFMOMA’s space, however beautiful sometimes overwhelms the art inside). Plus the slides were SO fun!

    p.s. I snapped a photo of the Mona Lisa (no flash, no flash!) years ago. Don’t feel guilty. 🙂

  4. I love the Tate! We went there when we were in London two years ago. There’s another, smaller, modern art museum we visited, too, that was great. One of the exhibits was a room full of oil. Did you see that? I forget the name of it. And I wish they had had the slides when I was there. How fun!

  5. I heart the Tate!
    I remember this amazing audio exhibit welcoming people into the museum — just emotions jabbering an concentrated in speakers.
    I also dug the very Victorian catalogue of items found in the Thames.

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