Friday, October 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Tates

It was another day of great mates, interesting art and no rain (although no sun, either). And it was another day in which I neither got lost nor lost any of my possessions.

I visited both Tates with Helen and Judy -- first the Tate Britain in Pimlico, followed by a boat ride to the Tate Modern on the Southbank. The major exhibition at Tate Britain now -- other than the Turner Prize, which I didn't see --is the photography of
Eadweard Muybridge. I always thought Muybridge was American, but he was born and buried in England, which qualifies him for an exhibition at the Tate Britain. And I'd always associated him only with stop motion photos of horses trotting and athletes running, but he also did some extremely impressive landscapes and cityscapes as well. The latter were very large format photos, shot on glass plates using a huge wooden camera that he lugged around to capture vistas in Yosemite and panoramas of San Francisco in the 1870s. No sacrifice was too much for his art -- he even chopped down trees if they were blocking the perfect view. The photos are incredibly detailed and beautifully composed, regardless of the era but more remarkably so when you consider the time and the technology.

The next exhibition we saw transported us to an entirely different reality. Or unreality.
Coral Reef is a series of small rooms, connected by dirty, narrow corridors, each of which contains the objects of real or imagined scenarios. One room was something like a mini-cab dispatch office, one like an evangelist's reception room, one that reminded me of my car mechanic's shop, which still has the grease and grime of 1975. The rooms were alternately perplexing, disturbing and amusing. Helen, Judy and I chuckled our way through the whole labyrinth.

The boat took us to the Tate Modern in Southwark, where we had planned to see -- and touch -- the new installation in the Turbine Hall. The installation, which opened just three days ago, is by
Ai Weiwei, who has filled the hall with 100 million ceramic sunflower seeds. Apparently, it's been wildly popular, with scores of people walking through the seeds, playings in them, touching them, moving them about and -- here's the significant part -- stirring up clouds of ceramic dust. The clouds have been so intense that Health and Safety has closed down access to the exhibition. When we got there, we met up with Ray, another of our Flickr mates, and were only able to view the installation from the balcony above or from behind a rope on the main floor of the Turbine Hall. A member of staff was beside the rope, explaining that they are investigating different means of controlling the dust and hope to have the problem solved soon. Other Turbine Hall exhibitions have also run into H&S difficulties, so they should be used to it at this point. I guess we have to put it down to witnessing a piece of Tate Modern history.

Back in Belsize Park, Spooner and I went down to his local, The George Washington, for birthday drinks with one of his mates. It's now raining -- the first real rain of my visit, which is truly remarkable ... and most fortunate.

Distance: 9,959 steps (4.08 miles)
  • £1.75 for tea at the Tate Britain
  • £11 for lunch at Pizza Express
  • £3.75 for Tate-to-Tate boat


  1. It was good catching up with you M.J., and that Coral Reef exhibition sounds as if it is worth a visit.

    Later, I caught a random bus from London Bridge and explored from there. This 'pot luck' technique is something I have only tried once before, but want to do more often to take me away from the same areas...

  2. Maybe they need to coat the sunflowers with safflower oil.

    I wasn't sure who Muybridge is until you mentioned the stop action. Would've liked to've seen that exhibit--and the Coral Reef one which sounds worthy of Mass MOCA.

    We had (partial) pints in honor of Spooner's friend's birthday last night at a beer-tasting dinner in New Bern.

  3. Who knew an art installation could be hazardous to one's health? It's lucky you weren't allowed to go on the floor-it would have been an asthma attack for sure.....