Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Tanks

Open now for some six months and subject to intense navel-gazing from those in the know about just what they are meant to accomplish and whom they are meant to represent, The Tanks of Tate Modern have become a must-see destination for the devotee. I am already a fan after a scant two visits. Part of it is the appeal to me of reclaimed industrial architecture. I especially like the odd circular structure which does not appear to contain art but is a draw for those who enjoy atmospheric spaces. When I first ventured there in November, someone was shooting a film there, soaking up the red light. The only drawback is the slightly dusty air, presumably a remnant of the refurbishment.
Light Reading by Lis Rhodes; photo by Val Phoenix

My second visit, this week, was to catch a glimpse of Lis Rhodes' Light Music, set to close tomorrow after a run of several months. The installation was closed for "refurbishment" when I visited in November, and despite the helicopter crash, cold weather and a burgeoning cold, I was determined to see it before it departs, presumably to sit in some store cupboard until someone sees fit to show it again. But will projectors still exist in this dimly glimpsed digital future? Rhodes's two projectors, crossing beams, display film that I believe has been optically printed onto the facing wall. [Here is an explanation of how it is made.] The beams of the two projectors carry out their dance or duel in the centre of the room, daring any spectators to cross their path. When I visited, I realised I was alone in the room and kept a respectful distance until my eyes adjusted and I realised there were seats on the opposite side of the room. Just as I walked through the beam, a flood of visitors entered behind me, and they had no such inhibitions. A group of teens, they danced into the centre of the room and started throwing shapes, filming themselves enacting moves more akin to horror than expanded cinema. It was mildly amusing, if a total mood-killer for Rhodes' more cerebral concerns, her whining optically-produced sound lost in the giggles and high-pitched squeals of the yoof. After awhile, I got annoyed and departed, my shadow spoiling at least one photo.

I am not me... by William Kentridge; photo by Val Phoenix
But my mood brightened appreciably with a return visit to William Kentridge's I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine, a multi-screen installation sited in what appears to be a kind of roundhouse. My first visit was curtailed because my companion complained of being afraid of the dark, and this one really needs to be seen im dunkel. One feels one is in a kind of nightmarish circus, with jaunty music blaring out, strange animations dancing on various screens, and then out of the corner of one's eye, one sees text from a meeting of the Soviet Central Committee in the 1930s and one knows something more serious is going on. This text comes from the show trial of Bukharin, whose name I dimly recalled from my political science studies of long ago. I rather recalled that things didn't end too well for him, and checking up on it later, I found that, yes, he was executed, his life as with the promise of the revolution and utopia snuffed out by brutality and power struggles. 

Both works close tomorrow, so catch them if you can!

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