OUT AND ABOUT
An action-packed week for TheEye.
It kicked off on Monday with a visit to The Whitechapel Gallery where Iraqi-American Michael Rakowitz – artist, sculptor, stone carver and occasional chef – is currently exhibiting. Rakowitz’s sculpture, Lamassu, a large winged bull with the head of a man, destroyed in 2015 by ISIS, was selected to be on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. TheEye’s excuse for this long overdue visit to see this very timely, thought-provoking show, was to celebrate the publication of his cookbook, ‘A House with A Date Palm Will Never Starve‘, consisting of recipes from world-renowned chefs, including Claudia Roden, Yotam Ottolenghi, Sam Clarke (Moro), Alice Waters and Honey & Co as well as Yvonne Rakowitz, the artist’s mother, an artist herself. The recipes all feature dates. A very happy occasion with many of the chefs also present enjoying some delicious bites from the recipes in the book.
It was pure coincidence that TheEye on a family outing to see Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Palladium coincided with the Gay Parade making its way to Piccadilly Circus. TheEye had loved the original production of Joseph at the Roundhouse many years ago when Jason Donovan played Joseph. Now playing Pharaoh, he is fabulously camp, funny and hyper-energetic. That said, the entire cast is wonderful and many (including 21-year-old newcomer Jac Yarrow playing the part of Joseph) are recent graduates of The Arts Educational School, a fantastic hothouse of young talent. They sing, they dance, they give it their all and the packed audience also singing and dancing in the aisles at the end loved every second. Yarrow is an overnight sensation and, apparently, there are queues lining up at the stage door of all ages eager for his autograph.
The GAY PRIDE March was happy and peaceful. No ‘incidents’. All ages, shapes and sizes, having a wonderful time and making their voices heard. For many marchers, whilst enjoying the party atmosphere, the real point was to make sure people ‘got the message’.
They dressed up and there was a great sense of ‘oneness’ and tolerant camaraderie – this year’s parade had a record turnout – helped, no doubt, by the good weather. Lots of sequins, tulle, big hair, and extreme eyelashes. The police presence was exemplary – no provocation. Watchful good humour which proves it can be done. If only the organisers of the Notting Hill Carnival were able to follow the example instead of turning it into something that always turns sour and squalid when the drugs and alcohol kick in.
IN REAL LIFE at TATE MODERN
TheEye loved this exhibition and was really lucky to go to an early morning preview when the galleries were empty and what a difference it makes! To be able to see the exhibits up close without battling and elbowing, craning your neck and — even then — not getting a worthwhile time to look. Senior curator, Mark Godfrey, gave an introductory talk to orientate us with the main themes. Very helpful (and necessary) it was, for this is a huge spectacle in 12 galleries and covers three decades of the artist’s work.
Eliasson’s ‘Weather Project’ in 2003 was a turning point for Tate Modern, leading the field as an example of what a 21st Century museum could be. In Real Life is a monumental project orchestrated in his studio in Berlin, which houses a staff of 120 craftspeople, architects, scientists, chefs, and environmentalists.
The first thing you see before entering the Turbine Hall is a massive waterfall cascading down in front of a building opposite. The gushing water was a little too close to home for TheEye, who recently had a massive flood in the bedroom of her home and didn’t need reminding of how powerful or destructive water can be and how fast it moves.
Eliasson focuses on three major interests (obsessions) – perception, geometry and nature. ‘Moss wall’, for example, is a 60-metre wall of Scandinavian reindeer lichen.
Food is another obsession and, for the duration of the exhibition, there is the Olafur Eliasson Kitchen serving a vegetarian lunch based on the lunches eaten in the Eliasson studio where 100 plus sit down to eat together at communal tables.
Some question whether Eliasson, a master of immersive experiences, is a true artist in the accepted sense or whether his main themes are really no more than brilliant gimmicks and tricks. For example, TheEye was completely fascinated and intrigued by the 39-metre-long fog tunnel ‘Your Blind Passenger” made from water-soluble fog fluid containing non-toxic polyols – a sweetener used in food production. The fog is so dense you can only see about 1.5 metres ahead of you and it totally unnerved and disorientated TheEye who ignored the instructions of the Tate guard at the door to ‘keep walking in a straight line’ and managed to collide into a wall at least three times.
Maybe the important point of any exhibition is to keep you thinking and questioning long after you leave. In that sense, it has certainly succeeded. It is impossible not to be mesmerised, and to quote Waldemar Januszczak in The Sunday Times Culture, ‘So while the art here is happily effective and a joy to wander through, the show manages also to trigger a creeping suspicion that there are bigger games afoot…for me it was like a magician revealing his methods and it destroyed some of the enchantment.’
Eliasson asks many questions, which confront visitors in this engrossing, immersive and original retrospective, but in the end, TheEye found herself questioning whether this was just a brilliant stimulating display of magic. And no fault in that.
In Real Life is at Tate Modern until early January 2020.
Go and figure it out for yourselves. It’s thrilling.