Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Only Happy When It Rains

Sci-fi inspired the current Turbine Hall installation at the Tate Modern - TH.2058 by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Many previous TH installations have a kind of sci-fi edge to them - for example the first in the series was Louise Borgeouis's giant spider Maman; they're also the more playful side of modern art, recent installations including a series of metal slides and a giant crack in the floor.

For TH.2058 the Turbine Hall has been converted into a shelter, complete with yellow and blue bunk beds, to protect Londoners from a perpetual rainstorm 50 years in the future. Sharing the space with the humans are giant versions of other works of art - including an even larger re-make of Maman, and the skeleton of some extinct mammal. At one end The Last Film is playing - a collage of film clips including sequences from some sci-fi classics including THX 1138, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Solaris, Soylent Green and so on.

The attention to detail makes walking through the shelter extremely evocative. Strange robotic insects stick to the walls with coloured lights on their backs. Books are littered around on the bunk beds, you can pick them up and leaf through. Naturally they include War of the Worlds and The Drowned World, as well as other apocalyptic classics. A radio is bolted to one of the bunk beds - someone is still broadcasting from somewhere else in the world. As you walk towards the exit the sound of dripping water gradually grows into the sound of the rainstorm outside.

Where are the people? Gallery staff are present wearing fluorescent jackets so could be the marshalls; otherwise the inhabitants have disappeared, leaving their books behind - or possibly we are cast as the survivors, getting used to our new living arrangements. The advantage of the Turbine Hall as an artistic space is that the artist can create really immersive experiences - much better than virtual reality - so this was my experience. The radio was a particularly poignant touch.

The descriptive leaflet explains that this is not purely a work of sci-fi but also continues themes Gonzales-Foerster has been working on over the last twenty years - as well as being a response to other works of art including those recreated here. This is still a cool experience for a sci-fi fan and, like the best art, evokes all sorts of emotions and thoughts as you pass through its shadow.

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