‘Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it – and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.’ – Olafur Eliasson
Artist Eliasson and geologist Mink Rosing fished twenty-four iceberg fragments out of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland, with each block weighing between 1.5 and 5 tonnes! The installation on the forecourt of the TATE Modern with St Paul’s gleaming in the winter sunshine across the Thames is to draw people’s attention to climate change and the rapidly melting ice caps. You’re encouraged to walk around them and touch them as they melt, but with London’s freezing conditions at the moment, they’re not going anywhere fast. Great idea though! BTW, they draw on the point of how much energy it took to retrieve these icebergs – in total equal apparently to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back. Not quite sure just how they got them to this site though, barged down the river? Then what? So, perhaps rather a lot more energy was taken up bringing them down from the Arctic than actually claimed.
The TATE Modern is, as ever, impressive and unrivalled both in scale and collection, though the latest ‘art’ installation in the massive Turbine Hall is somewhat elusive, in that you can’t actually see it. The Guardian review described it as ‘a complicated affair… just another bit of flimsy entertainment’, whilst the Telegraph’s damning review included… ‘Far worse than the lack of physical impact is the naïve and fundamentally patronising rationale behind the whole farrago.’ (Farrago? Had to look that one up: ‘a confused mixture’). We just saw squares of a dark coloured rubberised mat covering the whole floor with dozens of school kids running around screaming, not really understanding what it’s meant to mean or the ‘forced empathy’ it’s meant to elicit. Unwittingly, through their running around on the heat-sensitive surface, a large faint image of the face of a Syrian refugee had been revealed… but it took the random actions of a coachload of active kids to see this! Perhaps they should be a permanent part of the installation, because the revealed image is lost to most visitors. Meanwhile the other part of the installation is the ‘Crying Room’ – upon entering this small bare room, an organic compound which imitates the effect of chopping onions is pumped into the air and naturally makes your eyes water. Talk about forced empathy! We gave this a miss and went to the top floor viewing gallery instead.
Fantastic views across London from the roof, though freezing with a fittingly arctic wind roaring around us. It’s cheek-by-jowl living here on the South Bank, what with the skyscrapers, office buildings and the stratospherically expensive residential apartments (£1.5m+) that are almost within touching distance of the viewing deck. Some of these residents are suing the TATE for ‘breaching their human rights’ due to the large quantity of gawkers peering into their living rooms in ‘near constant surveillance’ – gawkers just like us. Couldn’t help ourselves. The question is, what came first, the TATE or the luxury flats? It’s almost a rooftop installation (and crowd pleaser) in itself – certainly more interesting than the one downstairs!
However, a genuinely intriguing installation now showing at the TATE is Christian Marclay’s The Clock. This painstakingly researched and artfully produced film is exactly 24-hours long (in real time) and is a montage of thousands of film and television clips of clocks, watches, digital displays, all seamlessly edited together so they show each passing minute of the actual time you’re watching the film. It has a loose narrative and sense of mood and place that changes according to the time of day and the particular hour. As The Guardian review stated: ‘The longer you watch it, the more addictive it becomes.’ We might need to go back.
We headed back to London Bridge through the vibrant Borough Market. It was lunch time, so the market was packed with hungry office workers – and to serve their needs, a vast array of freshly cooked food was on offer including ginormous vats of steaming Paella, bubbling Thai Green Curry and spicy Indian Curry. Mouth-watering!