13 February 2007


So we went to the Tate Modern last Friday, which was fun. We were in London because Sam gave a paper at Goldsmith's college and I used the opportunity to network a bit with colleagues on Thursday afternoon. Friday was ours, and hence the Tate Modern. I'd been there (for v. important exclusive workshop in the 7th-floor East Room overlooking Wren's sub-par (according to Sam, and well hard to disagree) cathedral and the rest), but I had not actually visited the museum before. Despite my training in art history I am not a museum lover. I've decided (today) that upon re-reading Timothy Mitchell's excellent article on Colonialism and the Exhibitionary Order (in Nick Dirks' Colonialism and Culture) that it's about the unending spectacle. One must be actively seeing/viewing/voyeuring in a Museum. this makes my eyes water and my back hurt. I get the sniffles from the AC. I last an hour, hit the gift shoppe (to purchase some souvenirs in order to commodify and thus make material my viewing experience) and go out into the equally exhibition-like world. sigh. Read Mitchell's piece. it's awesome.

we spent some time in the surrealism wing, which is where I hit my limit, naturally. who wouldn't, really? Some great stuff in that there museum--my fave was the Joseph Beuys installation in this cavernous room (see pic). Chock full of the surreal (Beuys is not surreal, but related via symbolism and myth to surrealist concerns), we wandered around London.

I then had a dream on Sunday night--a dream that I did not characterise as an 'anxiety dream' regarding teaching. And yet it was. So I had a 'decolonisation' lecture to give on Monday, for which I had not prepared at all. It was at 1 pm, so I figure I have the whole morning, no worries, only 50 minutes, I could talk about toothpaste for 50 minutes without any prep, so I figure it's all good. In my dream I realise, having not prepared at all, that it's suddenly 1 pm. Okay, no big deal, I'll just show up and wing it. I go to the lecture theatre to realise that some 'colleagues' are visiting the lecture, namely: James Gandolfini (playing my head of department) and some former colleagues from former institutions that should, really, remain former.

Now it's an anxiety dream. But I play it cool, asking the class to define colonialism (which is, in fact, what I had thought of doing and did indeed do, and thus it became a sort of deja-dream thing in the actual lecture. no Gandolfini, thankfully.) Then suddenly, without my controlling it, a film starts playing in the lecture theatre. I pretend I know what's going on. It's a trailer about race or identity or something (saw Babel in London, btw--worth seeing), and I think: sure, I can fit this into decolonisation...I'll go with it. A second trailer comes on and I think: hm. not so much. I stop the film, turn back to lecture to discover that James and colleagues have left the building. They didn't like the film, or what? Sigh. anxiety now focuses on my failure to hold their attention and the clear lack of teaching ability I have exhibited, in other words: guilt.

I heart surrealism.


Number Three said...

Glad to see SA is back up and running.

Ruth said...

Hmm...for me the Tate Modern is all about the space -- I just dig the recycled industrial aesthetic. And that central hall! And -- to refer back to your museum-going observations -- that gift shoppe! (Actually, it's more of a book shoppe, with an awesome selection of tomes even a non-arty person like me can appreciate/lust after).