© 2010 Saty + Pratha saty-pratha-tate-1

The Turner Prize & The Coral Reef.

Terese and I went to view/hear the Turner Prize winning project Lowlands at the Tate today, which turned out to be a little disappointing. Susan Philipsz’s ‘sound sculpture’ is the first sound installation to win the prize ever. Our expectations were too high?
The piece is a recording of Philipsz singing a 16th-century Scottish folksong – the lament of a drowned sailor bidding a final farewell to his lover. Three different versions were recorded, laid one on top of the other, then played beneath three bridges of Glasgow’s River Clyde. It must have sounded amazing if you were a passer-by who happened to catch a refrain while it played out under a bridge and below the trains! But not so much if you’re sitting on a bench in the middle of a room far removed from any romance. I loved the idea in theory, I even loved it in the accompanying video, but in person, it really didn’t deliver as much as promised – and it didn’t help that I could clearly hear the audio from the next room bleeding into my ‘experience.’
While at the Tate, we stumbled upon (and then cued up for) Mike Nelson’s The Coral Reef. The title is based on “a collection of complex, fragile belief systems that form a layer – a coral reef– beneath the ‘cean surface’ of dominant ideologies.” Honestly, this installation was ah-mazing! First of all, the format was completely unexpected, we didn’t know what we were entering as we walked into the first room of a disorienting many (my guess: re-creation of a mini-cab office). From here, we progressed and wound our way around what seemed like a post-apocalyptic squat of male angst.
I’m not sure why, but these scenarios felt entirely devoid of a female presence. Terese noted that the rooms smelled like too many afterhours-es, my olfactory senses noted Wasaga Beach. We settled on Wasaga Beach basement parties. Please go and wander through this exhibit, it is clever and disorienting and sensory and conversation-inducing. And there is a wicked surprise at the end. I would never want to be caught in here whilst high.

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