A tale of two Tates

Interactive playground installation and residual casted sculptures of the everyday. Both the Tate Modern and Tate Britain brings us a rare moment of joy and reflection.

When you come to the City on your travels, you want to immerse yourself in a bit of culture. And London is the city for it. In fact, it’s brimming with such abundance of creativity and talent, that you can easily become overwhelmed and intimidated by the choices you must make.

The shining beacon for those bewildered by the wealth of choices has got to be the Tate. Both the Tate Modern and Tate Britain are a sanctuary for art lovers. This is how I felt as I shuffled through the Tate Modern doors, claiming protection from the wet weather. I am always in awe of the impressive and monumental space of the Turbine Hall, and my recent visit was no exception. Firstly because as I crossed the threshold, I was standing on unfamiliar, comforting soft ground. And secondly, I was able to see swings in the distance. Swings! A playground that’s inside, where you would least expect it, is always an impressive feat.

As part of the Hyundai commission, ‘One, two, three, swing’ is a playful, and enchanting interactive installation from Danish artist’s collective SUPERFLEX. As you walk down the striped, Willy Wonka-esque carpet you are greeted by a wondrous site. Especially as an adult who has long forgotten the childish glee you get from swinging as high as possible!

An industrial orange line weaves across the south end of the hall, creating sections of various sized swings.

Each swing has been designed for three people by Danish artists’ collective SUPERFLEX. Swinging with two other people has greater potential than swinging alone and One, Two, Three, Swing! invites us to realise this potential together. Swinging as three, our collective energy resists gravity and challenges the laws of nature – taken from the Tate website

‘One, Two, Three, Swing!’ is the third annual Hyundai commission, as part of a series of site specific installations being displayed within the Turbine Hall. Having artists utilise the space in this way is not an unfamiliar sight at the Tate.

Olafur Eliasson’s the ‘Weather Project’ back in 2003 was monumental historically as it was mesmerizing. Bringing the outside in, Eliasson brought his artistic vision of the Sun into the hall, with atmospheric mist to surround it. For the Tate, this felt like a shift in representing and investing in artists that questioned how we experience and view art. And also how we experience and interact with the space that houses it. Not long after this was Rachel Whiteread’s ‘EMBANKMENT’, which included hundreds of stacked-high cast boxes. More recently though, we can all remember Carsten Holler’s ‘Test Site’ that involved metallic slides spread across the Turbine Hall, from top to bottom.

Using the architecture in this way, not only encourages interactivity but demands engagement that lasts longer than the familiar casual ‘walk past’. It gives the audience time to reflect and consider what’s in front of them. No other contemporary artist is better at questioning our relationship with architecture and what we surround ourselves with everyday, than Rachel Whiteread.

Whiteread is one of my all time favourites, and I was hugely excited to see her exhibition at the Tate Britain, which celebrates 25 years of her internationally acclaimed sculpture. There was a true mix of work on display that ranged from everyday objects, such as casted toilet roll and hot water bottles, to her monumental, renowned staircase.

racehl whiteread staircase

It’s quite a serene experience, walking amongst inanimate objects, that seem familiar yet removed. Her casted doors and architectural pieces felt like moments in time. In fact, her ‘Untitled’ staircase is one of three casts she made from her home and studio in Bethnal Green in 1999. Speaking in 2001,

It’s something that I’ve been trying to do for about eight years. What intrigued me about the staircase is that I felt it could be turned on its side … when I was first thinking about making [it] I didn’t necessarily want to illustrate it as a staircase … I wanted to try to do something a bit less literal. I made models of the staircase, which helped me realize that I could actually turn things around … I wanted to try and flip the architecture a little bit. I wanted to change the way one might think about how you walk around or through something … when we first put the staircase work up in the studio … I was struck by the sense of physical disorientation it gave me.

(Quoted in Transient Spaces, pp.50-1.)

Her method of casting these everyday objects and architectural segments, does turn their meaning and use on their side. Placing them in the gallery environment makes them an object of worth; something to consider and engage with.

Both shows are well worth a visit, even if it is to escape the hustle and bustle of London’s streets for a moment. Rachel Whiteread is at the Tate Britain until the 21st January and ‘One, Two, Three, Swing!’ will be displayed in the Turbine Hall until the 2nd April 2018. If you’re yet to experience the Whiteread show, here are a few photos from the day that should wet your appetite!



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