Detail of the bottom of one of the slides
View of the installation from the Turbine Hall
Art in a Gallery ... Art in a street? Choose by yourself
Past installations in the Tate's Turbine Hall "The weather Project", by Olafur Eliasson (2003). Right, "Embankment", by Rachel Whiteread (2005)
by G. Fernández - theartwolf.com
There is little doubt that London's Tate Modern is, in addition to one of the most important Contemporary Art Galleries of the world, one of bravest at the time of installing pieces that, as much for its dimensions as for its own significance, many others museums of the world would not be prepared to exhibit. The last example of this is the installation, from October 10 th 2006 to April 9 th 2007, of the last installation by Carsten Höller ( Germany , 1961), " Test Site "
Essentially, "Test Site" consists in three enormous and spectacular slides located in the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. These slides, of different forms and dimensions, connects this ample entrance hall with the Museum's different levels, so it is possible to use (it's quite strange to use this verb when talking about an artistic installation) the smaller of the slides with no need of collecting any ticket, necessary for both of the greater. Obviously, slides only allow the descent, so this installation would have to be the last work to which the visitor centres his attention. Nevertheless, the enormous magnetism of the work incites many visitors to throw themselves into the smaller slide before entering any other room of the Tate, so, paradoxically; the "goodbye installation" becomes a "welcome installation".
However, the inevitable question is: "is this Art?"
The question - whose answer will depend, as in almost any work of contemporary Art, of each person's own opinion- must be tackled in a double sense: the tangible value of the installation (that is to say, its sculptural value) and the intangible one (the emotion or emotions transmitted by the installation). About the first of them, the Tate Gallery, in a press note, affirms: " The five silver slides produce an extraordinary sculptural form that is suggestive of a futuristic vision of the building's system of circulating people." Indeed, the aesthetic value of these metallic snakes placed in the middle of the enormous empty space of the Turbine Hall is immediate and undeniable.
Talking about emotions, it is evident that a 55,5 meters long, 26,5 meters tall slide (dimensions of the largest of them) inevitably causes a quite considerable emotion in any user brave enough to slide into it. But, is there something artistic in it, beyond the inevitable sensation, half fear, half euphoria, so characteristic of these machines? The Tate Modern, in press note, declares: " The title of the installation, Test Site , relates to both Höller's wider interest in the application of slides as a means of human transport and his exploration of how participants might be stimulated (.) While the slides in Tate Modern provide a practical form of transportation, the act of going down involves relinquishing control, inducing a particular state of mind related to freedom from constraint."
Stimulation, relinquishing control, freedom from constraint. I'd better go to the Tate and meet in person this thrilling installation.
TESTING THE TEST SITE
London , October 11 th 2006, Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.
A typical London morning, cool and wet, after days of unusual good weather. Even before arriving at the Tate, I realized that I had committed my first error: my digital camera is "out". Really, not a great problem, because " Test Site " is certainly an installation which no photo can describe.
As we have already commented, the sculptural value of the installation is evident, and I would dare say positive. As it is said in the Tate's press, the five silver serpents immediately transmit a futuristic and attractive sensation. In addition, its undeniable presence does not eliminate the huge architectonic sensation of the Turbine Hall, as many past installations have caused.
Now it's time to slide!
As I have already commented, the smaller of the slides is also the only one which is possible to be used with no need of ticket, besides being the least imposing of all them, so, as you can guess, it's also the most popular. After a short wait, we begin the descent. and few seconds later we are again in the Turbine Hall's ground. At the moment, we have discovered interesting means of human transport for any museum, quite faster than an elevator or stairs, and without a doubt more exciting than anyone of them. Now let's test the largest slide.
The colossal slide, located in the gallery's fifth level, is really imposing. If the face is the reflection of the soul, the emotions with which the visitor confronts this slide are very different than those in the first: confident smile there, nervous smile here. The descent, of course, is vertiginous, reaching a really considerable speed. The sensations at the end of the descent are also very different; half relief, half excitation. Is this what Höller refers to when talking about " the beauty of the uncertain "? Is this " freedom from constraint ", this " relinquishing control " an emotion related to the contemporary Art? Is not the Art a personal expression of its creator, later transmitted to the observer? What is Höller expressing us with this installation? What does it says of its creator? Who knows the answers?
THE COLOSSUSES OF THE TURBINE HALL
As spectacular as " Test Site" is, the installation would not result unprecedented for the Tate Modern's habitual visitors, who with no doubt are already used to contemplate spectacular installations in the large Turbine Hall. Most of them will surely remember the impressive " The weather Project ", created by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, and exposed at the end of 2003, which filled the colossal room with a formidable and almost divine light and atmosphere, which with no doubt would have impressed William Turner himself, protagonist in the near Tate Britain. More recent - concretely of the last year- is " Embankment ", created by Rachel Whiteread, who literally filled the enormous room with white blocks.