There is a BC (before Coronavirus) and a brief break I shall call PL1 (post lockdown 1). In that brief re-opening, when we all knew that Lockdown 2 was on its way, we ventured out. We ventured out twice, in fact. Both times to Tate Modern and both times we saw wonderful shows without the BC crowds.
Steve McQueen without the crowds was phenomenal. We almost had the show to ourselves. And what a show. He has the ability to include the viewer into the work. It feels like you are in it; in the helicopter circling the Statue of Liberty (but without the worry or expense) or in the boat with Ashes (but without the splash). To see Ashes again was wonderful. I remembered it from the Venice Biennale. There was so much joy and life in this simple, visceral moment of being on a boat in a beautiful sea by a beautiful island. Then the flip side. So many wonderful works with real emotion dealt with raw, without lapsing into pity, but remaining true, allowing the people to own their story. The hotel room with a man just illuminated by the tv was also engrossing. I have loved his work since I saw the Turner Prize piece with the falling wooden building, sort of Buster Keaton without the slapstick. With the Ashes piece I have finally worked out why I have loved, since the age of 14, the Baptism of Christ by Piero della Francesco. The work makes space for me, the viewer, to be in it because of its angles and size and proportion and other artistic know-how. It creates a holy space, a sacred space, because it is not cynical or knowing. And seeing Steve McQueen’s work I realise is the same. He makes space for the viewer to share the work. Magnificent.
Bruce Nauman. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it might be heavy on intellect rather than art. How wrong I was. The exhibition was not done chronologically (hurrah) but in themes. The room I loved first was using a film from his young self with his current self walking into it. This was so well done with shadows and size that you think a real person has just walked into the piece. It is beautiful, speaking across time and generations and artistic practice. There was plenty to see that just made you want to sit and be. Art for arts sake. Not about something, which seems to be the prevalent mood at the moment, a bit like some very weak sociological essay with lots of platitudes, but the thing itself. Just the thing. Fab.