Monday, 19 August 2013

Simon Starling Phantom Ride

Every year, Tate Britain invites an artist to develop a new work in response to it's collection. It's a great idea. So often we forget the permanent displays and objects in these large galleries. I am sure I am not the only one who has got into the bad habit of visiting the larger galleries to see the latest blockbuster only to forget the rest. I always try to make the effort of seeing more of the permanent displays, but, often exhausted after battling through the crowds to get a teeny peak of a Lowry or a Da Vinci, I find it near impossible to muster the energy to see anything else. 

The Tate Commission is a brilliant idea because it remedies this problem. Artists are used to  put a refreshing spin on the older collections, which all too often feel like they are just sitting there collecting dust. Every year, their work highlights the continuum of visual and intellectual ideas that exists between historic and contemporary art and last week, whilst visiting the gallery, I was lucky enough to see Tate's latest commission.

Simon Starling and his team have been working tirelessly for 2013's project and what a terrific result it is too. His piece called 'Phantom Ride' takes his audience on a ‘rollercoaster ride on invisible rails’ through the histories and memories of Tate Britain’s famous Duveen Galleries. Collapsing time and space, Simon manages to enlarge the volume of the galleries with huge projection screens whilst revealing significant artworks and events that have previously enchanted the space like ghostly apparitions. In my mind, it is a formidable piece of utter genius. I enjoyed it so much that, I found myself wanting another ride. I wanted to go back again and again, rather like how one feels after a terrifying ride at the fair ground.


The film itself has that eerie quality that you get in a dream. It's surreal and spooky, but not in a silly way - it's all very cleverly done. The best bit of course is that the film is being shown on a massive projection screen in the very galleries that it features, making the whole concept even more challenging for the brain. It's like being in an out of body experience. I found myself leaving logic behind after watching this film for a few seconds. I entered a different mind state - that of the dream world where there are no rules, and although terrifying, it was actuality incredibly liberating. It certainly put me in a better place to look at the rest of Tate's collections. Mind messed up, my heart and soul took over, my eyes became less judgmental and much more curious.

If you are planning a visit to Tate I recommend that you spend a few minutes at least in front of the screen. Have a go a floating weightlessly over Tate's history.

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