I went to the Tate Modern. I was expecting, mostly, to see some art displays, some tasteful paintings or sculptures, and force myself into an immersed state for the sake of creating a review. Instead I found myself distracted as soon as I entered the Turbine Hall looking for the stairwell. Within Turbine Hall, an art installation was attracting a lot of attention. Looking over the ledge, I spotted some people on the floor. I wondered to myself if they had been directed at any point to experience the installation in this way, or if they were just following each others example.
The installation was one by Philippe Parreno, a commission from Hyundai Motor, a site specific exhibition of light and sound that would evolve not only over the course of a day, but over the course of the six month installation period. I kept track of the sounds and sights that occurred over the course of my stay in the hall. To begin with, it was all rather Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with lights along the walls lighting up in time with notes. After several minutes, it faded away into a more ambient type of atmosphere.
I will praise the exhibition on its use of light and sound in the space. I was very, almost excessively relaxed, almost to the point of abandoning my mobile phone that I’d left on the carpet. Luckily a friendly person spotted this and caught up to me, handing me my phone. That said, it did feel a little unpolished, perhaps a little visually underwhelming, though that may have contributed to the relaxation effect I feel that it was a bit too bare bones. More interesting was the method of control used to determine what sound occurred and when: a bio-reactor visible at the end of the hall.
While the decision as to what biological process these microorganisms triggered, and how they related to whatever sound or visual occurred within the installation, are assuredly arbitrary connections made by the artist, I couldn’t help but feel that as a result I was listening to what was essentially a rhythm dictated by life. By letting control over to these microorganisms and other biological process, the installation had a breathing quality to it. I suppose that, in the end, I was more fascinated by the technical function of this installation and the whole bio-reactor business than the sound and ambience itself.