And now, another episode of DANGEROUS ART!
Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth is the first work to intervene directly in the fabric of the Turbine Hall. Rather than fill this iconic space with a conventional sculpture or installation, Salcedo has created a subterranean chasm that stretches the length of the Turbine Hall. The concrete walls of the crevice are ruptured by a steel mesh fence, creating a tension between these elements that resist yet depend on one another. By making the floor the principal focus of her project, Salcedo dramatically shifts our perception of the Turbine Hall’s architecture, subtly subverting its claims to monumentality and grandeur. Shibboleth asks questions about the interaction of sculpture and space, about architecture and the values it enshrines, and about the shaky ideological foundations on which Western notions of modernity are built.
Shibboleth, to be blunt, is a Great Big Crack in the Floor. It is a large, open and obvious crack, the sort you should not step on if you value your mother's back nor step in if you value your own. It is there for anyone to see, plain as day. Indeed, the entire point of Shibboleth is to be there for all to see: it's art, after all.
And yet, no matter how clearly recognizable a potential danger may be, some will inevitably fall prey to it, as reported by the Times Online:
Beginning as a crack, Shibboleth widens and deepens as it snakes across the gallery’s Turbine Hall, until in some places it is large enough for a toddler to fall into. Staff have been detailed to monitor visitors wandering around the hall, but a Freedom of Information request by The Times has revealed that their efforts have not been entirely successful.
Four of the 15 accidents, some of which resulted in minor injuries, have been reported to the Health and Safety Executive. The museum has considered using Perspex glass to cover Shibboleth 2007, which . . . runs the full 167 metres (548 feet) of the cavernous hall.
One has to feel for Dennis Ahern, the Tate's head of safety and security, who is obliged to strike a balance between respecting the nature of the work and managing the risks of injury and resulting liability claims that it poses. As Ahern reported to his colleagues:
'With Shibboleth this hazard differs from equitable ones in that physical protection measures which would normally be applied to a gap of this nature are not deemed appropriate due to its artistic nature.'
The museum is no stranger to injurious art installations, as the Times also notes:
Tate Modern is facing four other legal claims arising from other incidents, mostly related to the giant slides that last year occupied the hall.
[Hyperlink -- to giant slides! -- added.]
All of which inspires Decs&Excs to a flight of cautionary verse, which the reader can perhaps imagine performed as a patter-song in the manner of Noel Coward or Gilbert & Sullivan:
There's a crack in the floor of the Tate;
At the Tate there's a crack in the floor:
It winds through the Hall
From the door to the wall
And it's really too big to ignore.
But some won't, as they say, "Mind the Gap."
They'll fall down and their limbs will contort.
And each injured visitor's
Ready to take Tate to court.
So don't say that you haven't been warned,
Should you visit the Tate Modern premises.
Can lead to contusion --
Beware! for the crack is your nemesis.
OF RELATED INTEREST:
- Original link, to this BBC report, via TIME Magazine art writer Richard Lacayo, who visited Shibboleth in October and wasn't all that impressed.
- In vaguely-related British employment law news, Emma Clarke, the "voice of the Tube" who can be heard throughout London urging travelers to "mind the gap" has been terminated for posting mock versions of such announcements on her personal website. Perhaps she can obtain a position at Tate Modern for the remainder of Shibboleth's run.
- Decs&Excs appreciates the difference between solicitors and barristers and knows that it is the latter who would more likely take one to court. We hope we may be forgiven for having sacrificed precise accuracy on the altar of rhyme. This too is art, of a sort.
- Previously, on Dangerous Art! . . .