Materials & Objects in the Tate Modern Boiler House

The Materials and Objects exhibition at the Tate Modern covers such a vast range of ideas, media and artists that it takes a while to really take it in. Below I have selected some of the pieces that really caught my attention. They’re by no means an exhaustive look and it is really worth taking an afternoon to go and look.

‘Work No. 232: the whole world + the work = the whole world’ (2000) Martin Creed

This is cheating slightly as it is on the wall before you go into the Boiler House. There are few things more visually appealing to me than a clean, rounded font lit in white, so it’s not surprising that I picked this, but I also like the fact it is tautological – an equation that can never be solved, and also that you can’t say for sure whether it is a positive or negative statement! It was commissioned for the Tate in 2000 to mark the change from The Tate Gallery of British Art to Tate Britain. You can read more about it on the Tate Modern website.

‘An American Tribute to the British People’ (1960-4) Louise Nevelson

This is one of two Nevelson pieces in this exhibition. The other one (Black Wall) is taller than it is wide and painted completely black, which obscures the contents. The use of gold paint in the piece above highlights every surface making it an object that you can look at endlessly and see new and different features to it. Nevelson collected the boxes and items for her work from the streets around her home where such things were frequently discarded. To read more about her work in this exhibition go here

A detail from ‘Ink Splash II’ (2012) El Anatsui

I think its apparant that I’m a bit of a magpie. In the case of Ink Spalsh II by El Anatsui, however, it was the vivid blue that attracted me rather than the gold. I especially like how dark it looks in the folds of the piece, which was made by weaving strips of aluminium bottle tops. These were then attached to each other using copper wire to create a metallic tapestry. As you can see from the photo on the Tate’s Website, the colour escapes the established boundaries of the piece by spilling over from the wall onto the floor.

‘Behold’ (2009) Sheela Gowda

Behold by Sheela Gowda is a striking piece to look at, and that is before you realise it is constructed using human hair. The hair has been knotted and forms 4 kilometres of rope, which is then wrapped round and hung from twenty car bumpers, knotted further into netting, hung from the ceiling and pooled in coils on the floor. The work reflects superstition in the place Gowda lives; it is common for people to knot their hair around car bumpers to ensure safety from bad luck and accidents. Tate Modern page on Behold.

‘Embryology’ (1978-80) Magdalena Abakanowicz

The final artwork I have picked out from my trip is Embryology by Magdalena Abakanowicz. It takes up a large room by itself; being arranged in two different mounds – one long and the focal point of the room, and another piled up in the corner. To me, the stuffed burlap sacks are reminiscent of the rocks and stones on a beach, but on closer inspection the texture of the hessian suggests something softer and more obliging.



Tate Modern Visit September 2016

At the start of our course, we visited the Tate Modern in London. I’d not been before so I wasn’t sure what to expect! One of the beautiful things about the Tate Modern is that they work with the fabric of the building. All around it you can see hints to its past life as Battersea Power Station.


Our first stop at the Tate was to head down to the Tank Room to experience the Active Sculpture exhibition. This is a BMW sponsored exhibition comprising of three interactive pieces from the 1960’s as well as a new piece by Tarek Atoui.

Zero to Infinity (1968-1997) – Rasheed Araeen

The first thing you notice when walking in, is the sheer scale of the tanks and their well preserved industrial quality, which complements the first piece of sculpture you arrive at: Rasheed Araeen’s piece ‘Zero to Infinity’ (1968-1997)

A different view of the sculpture, taken whilst crouching down.

As per the artist’s instruction the piece is periodically rearranged, and had been the Friday before our visit. The idea is that there are an infinite amount of combinations it can be arranged into. It is important to Araeen that the symmetry of the piece is occasionally broken by this process of rearrangement. The size of the tank room belies the vastness of this piece, and from different angles, like the one above, it appears infinite in an entirely different way.

‘Untitled’ (1965) – Robert Morris

‘Untitled’ (1965) by Robert Morris is a set of 4 large, mirrored cubes. These interested me, partially because I am a magpie with a fondness for shiny objects, but mainly because I discovered that by angling myself opposite to an edge one can disappear from the reflection entirely as you can see from the resultant picture:


This interaction between the viewer and the piece is part of Morris’ aim, as along with other spectators moving past, the involvement of a person changes the way the sculpture appears and is perceived by everyone who is looking at that moment. I enjoyed experimenting with where I stood in order to make myself vanish, which is quite a surreal experience when you are expecting to see your reflection. 

‘Revolving Vane’ (1987) – Charlotte Posenske

There were also a work by Charlotte Posenenske ‘Revolving Vane’ (1987) These were painted particle board cubes that can be rearranged by opening and closing different doors, to make different rooms. 

‘The Reverse Collection’ – Tarek Atoui

At the back of the room were the instruments of Tarek Atoui’s ‘The Reverse Collection’. This was a piece of performance art that was performed daily, recorded and then overlayed with the previous recordings to create an increasingly rich and deep recording. There is more information on that here and you can watch a performance on TateShots below:


After leaving the Tank Room, we took a quite detour into the room next door which was full of screens showing the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s ‘Primitive 2009’. 

‘Primitive 2009’ – Apichatpong Weerasthakul

Whilst it was quite an overwhelming experience, the effect of multiple layers of sound and film was interesting, especially the way that by manipulating media you can create an entirely different narrative to the simple one that was filmed; in this instance films of a small border town into a ghost story.

We visited one of the Artist’s Rooms and the Materials and Objects exhibition in the Boiler House after we had finished in the Tank Room, which I will tackle in separate posts.