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I got a chance to

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2001

I got a chance to check out the Tate Modern when I was in London. On the whole, I’m not a big fan of modern art, mainly because I don’t know enough about art history to place modern art in its proper context (or something). I’m trying, honestly, I am. A few things at the Tate I did find interesting:

- The building was very nice, inside and out. Formerly a power plant, the Tate Modern has a huge, cathedral-like open area that dominates the interior, rare for modern buildings; most are designed to make the most of the space on which they are built.

- Kathy Prendergast’s Lost Map, a map of the United States with all of the placenames removed, except for those containing the word “lost”.

- Fernand Léger’s Ballet mécanique, a short film done in 1924, bore a remarkable likeness to many of today’s quick-cut films, TV commercials, and music videos. It was jarring to see something that old (done before the advent of talking motion pictures even) that looked and played just like the final frenetic sequence in Requiem for a Dream.

- The Great Bear (map detail) by Simon Patterson is a map of the London Underground with the station names replaced by the names of philosophers, comedians, scientists, and actors. My hotel was located near the Plato station.

- Much like his World Flag Ant Farm, Yukinori Yanagi’s Pacific (detail of artwork) uses ants to redefine the relationships between the represented nations.

Less interesting was the display of three basketballs in a glass box and the room with the fluorescent light tubes arranged in different ways. I left wondering, “is that art, or is it just the sporting goods display at Wal-Mart?”