Sunday, July 17, 2016

Switch House | Through the eyes of a philistine



I attended the press viewing of the new Tate Modern last month.
When the director, Nick Serota, said in his speech that the project was not just an extension but ‘a new Tate Modern’ he hit the nail on the head.
Filled with live performances aimed solely to make you uncomfortable, abstract pieces that make you question whether the artist was a child, and live parrots in a desert scene… it was a drastic change from the Tate Modern I visited a few years back.
Walking into the brown Lego building (I have no other words to describe the exterior, unless I go for hideous, but I’m trying not to begin with too much negativity), you have to appreciate the architecture on the inside. Some of the original structure of the engine turbine rooms’ remains, and the big open spaces, with marble winding staircases is enough to make anybody think they’re inside a palace.
Level 10 is undeniably the best thing Switch House has to offer. A full 360 degree view of the London skyline with a balcony that goes all the way around the top floor. Overlooking all the best buildings in the city, it offers one of the best views I’ve seen in a while (and it’s free)!
You can’t argue with the message, aiming to show pieces from around the world, because of course art is global. They’re also showing more exhibitions than ever before displaying the work of female artists – another noteworthy cause.
But when standing in a half empty room, staring up in the air to see what appears to be stuffed material in the shape of a hanging body, I have to ask myself ‘is that really art?’
Live performers walk around at various intervals, pushing into your personal space and repeatedly asking you to move. I missed the message at the start, but I imagine it was something powerful and the uncomfortableness was completely intentional.
I can appreciate beautiful photography, or hand-painted canvas’ that leave your mind wandering over what it could be, I even took a moment to stare at the big oak tree that comprised 77 different types of tree branch from around China. But even I have to draw the line over 10 planks of wood placed on top of each other, with litter filling the spaces.
With cages laid out as beds, live performers lying against the wall, Lego spilled all over the floor and two attendees holding each end of a bunting all morning (I hope they were paid well), I left with my head spinning.
My heart was split over enjoying the space and being completely disenchanted with the pieces on display… I suppose I’ve had that feeling in most of the art museums I have been to.
If you’re interested in abstract art and the ‘find the meaning’ craziness of art museums, you should definitely check it out. But beware, it gets weird… 
   
The lobby dividing the new Switch House from the existing gallery

The view from the 10th floor




Live performers doing strange things

One of the many pieces of "art"


Staircase leading from the turbine hall to the first floor

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