On the new Tate Modern

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On Saturday I visited Tate Modern for the first time since the opening of the Switch House. The extension itself is really quite impressive, inviting a more organic, multifarious exploration of the gallery space rather than linear instruction. The extension includes The Tanks, a series of underground chambers hidden in the vaults of the new building, which house video installations and interactive art. One such piece by Wen-Ying Tsai, an electronic sculpture which responds to the sounds made by the viewers, is especially thrilling insofar as the noises and white flashing lights, just audible and visible from the entrance, are unnerving in a way rarely experienced in a gallery of this size.

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Upstairs, I particularly enjoyed the display Between Object and Architecture, a cleverly compiled collection of interactive or ‘living’ sculpture. This gallery takes a phenomenological approach, summoning the viewer to physically engage with the sculpture rather than passively viewing it; be it peering into the shiny mirrored looking-holes of Yayoi Kusama’s The Passing Winter or clambering into Ricardo Basbaum’s cushioned pods. The far room of this collection promotes a more serious architectural approach to sculpture with highlights including Eva Hesse’s Addendum, where grey rope falls from a wooden bar in chaotic coils on the gallery floor, and Roni Horn’s Pink Tons, a candy-coloured glass cube, whose reflection shimmers and appears to melt under the glare of the gallery lights, with onlookers just about stopping themselves from touching it. There is witty curation here too, most notably, the secret inclusion of Bruce Nauman’s Corridor with Mirror and White Lights, which is hidden towards the back wall of the gallery. The wooden encasing of the corridor against the actual walls of the space means that this piece frequently goes unnoticed by passers-by, making its discovery all the more compelling.

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For a real treat, there’s always Louise Bourgeois’ Artist Room on the fourth floor which showcases just some of the glorious, creepy absurdity of her work. The À L’Infini series of mixed-media etchings presents a stirring clump of bloody cords and damp pink stains, a visceral mass of unformed bodily tangles and oozy blots. From the ceiling, the flabby, uncanny limbs of her humanoid soft sculptures dangle, and her famous metallic spider, a colossal collection of thin, sprawling legs, imposingly occupies the centre of the room. The real highlight though is the wunderkammer, a weird assortment of crude corporeal forms, all round bellies and bulbous breasts, and a selection of peculiar texts, which provide a fascinating and necessarily look into an extraordinarily complex artistic mind.

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