Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lines line up space (Tate Britain)

Last Saturday I went to see the Tate Britain. Of course Tate Modern is the 'coolest' one, and I love dropping by any chance I get. But fortunately, living in London obliges you to visit all the galleries possible. It was great seeing the original 'Ophelia', which was an obvious inspiration to Nick Cave in the nineties for the video of the song 'Where the wild roses grow'. Also I enjoyed some pieces by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose work I had only seen in books and on the net. Of course some of the symbology of 16th century British painting seemed quite curious to me as opposed to Italian Renaissance, with which I am much more familiar.


At the moment the Duveen Galleries house a massive site specific installation by Eva Rothschild, called Cold Corners. Twenty-six  black triangles of various sizes, made of light black aluminium tube, stretch out the whole length of the gallery. Almost looking like a refined scaffolding, the piece contrasts with the architecture of the space, creating a new space that can be explored from different points of view. The space seems 'outlined' by the black tube triangles, giving the gallery a system for measuring and perceiving chunks of space. The spectator's gaze is directed by these lines and when a 'cold corner' comes along, it seems that we change the direction we are looking in.

Eva Rothschild's work  reminded me of a set design technique that Richard Foreman describes in his book 'Unbalancing Acts'. In order to decentralise the spectator's look in one point, which is often the presence of a protagonist, he used pieces of string that accompanied the spectator's gaze to different directions on stage. I found this little detail of great interest as very often playrights tend to concentrate the spectator's attention in one centre point, where the drama takes place. Foreman escapes from this conventional idea by offering the audience to explore the actors' space in different light.

Many artists nowadays use string, plastic, metal and all kinds of materials to draw physical lines in galleries. Some works may be stunning (also due to their dimensions), I saw a huge installation of that kind at the Venice Biennale this year. It has become some sort of 'string fashion', or 'string style art' that may be a little over the top. But if there is a reason behind it, and it works within an exhibition space or a performative venue why not?

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