Recently, I’ve been taking a few trips to London. Well not recently because #covid. But before that. One of my favorite things about London is the fact that so many museums are free. It’s a nice way to balance out how expensive everything else is! I especially love it because you don’t sacrifice quality or content in these museums.
One of the many benefits to living in Warsaw, is that it is very easy and relatively cheap to travel around Europe. Luckily, there is also a 5.45am flight to London, which lands mid morning. After travelling to the city center, it is just about time for museums to be opening. I have taken to visiting one museum when I get into town, before check in at my airbnb. Most recently I chose the Tate Modern as this early morning visit.
I probably should have waited until I was more awake? To be frank, I’m not the most understanding of some modern art. For me there is a lot of, “Wow, that’s amazing. But whyyyyy?”
For example, this model of the ancient Algerian city of Ghardaïa by Kader Attia. Not saying it’s not wonderful. It’s actually very cool to look at. But why is it made of cooked couscous? What is it saying about man’s relationship to couscous? Also, it was made in 2009. How long is couscous good for? I can’t imagine cooked couscous doesn’t go bad eventually. Is that a representation of the expiration of these ancient cities? The lost architecture and knowledge if we don’t protect them? Am I reading too much into the couscous? It doesn’t seem like a very strong building material. What does that say about the artists’ commitment to the medium?
It makes me ask a lot of questions. Maybe that’s what art is supposed to do. But mostly it just made me feel like I don’t understand.
Postcard/photo collages, however- I get it. Look how that photo portrait makes that postcard look like eyes. Interesting.
Look how the death of this piano looks like a dinosaur shadow. Whooooaaaa. Again, though. Why is the piano dying? Why is it strung up on the ceiling? Is it just to make a dino shadow? Because, well done! Does it represent the current state of the music industry? The growing reliance on technology, making live instruments seem like dinosaurs? If I ever meet the artist, Rebecca Horn, I shall ask her. But also tell her I loved it!
My favorite artist’s collection was that of Ed Ruscha. He used idyllic rural photos combined with graphic/contrasting text. I liked the way the pictures were calming, but when you actually take the time to stop and read, it’s an entirely different emotion. Sometimes unsettling.
Sometimes a little more… huh?
Speaking of, “huh?” let’s go back to this piece. Damián Ortega, a Mexican artist, has replicated the floor plans of modernist apartment buildings around the world (Warsaw, Berlin, and Mexico City) using leather. Then he gathered up the leather cutouts into hanging sculptures. OK. Lots of work that would have taken. So kudos. But why? What are we saying about these modern housing structures? The info blurb said, “Ortega’s soft sculptures focus on the shapes of the buildings rather than their functional and social aspects…” But do they focus on the shape of the buildings if you gather them up and suspend them from the ceiling? Why did he choose to make them out of leather? Maybe I should have waited till after I had that first cup of coffee?
I will say however, the actual structure and architecture of the Tate Modern was stunning. Housed in two different buildings, each had their own feel. It also housed a great place for kids to make art, and offered different workshops throughout the day. Also had one of the best gift shops I’ve been to. Lots of very interesting books and art.
*Featured image is Paris by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva.