Echoes of the Metamodern: The Tanks at Tate Modern

Echoes of the Metamodern: The Tanks at Tate Modern

In the belly of London’s iconic Tate Modern, a series of exhibitions is bending the boundaries of traditional art space, interweaving the auditory with the visual, and immersing visitors in a truly metamodern artistic engagement. This series is housed within The Tanks, subterranean chambers formerly used to store oil, but now reimagined as the world’s first museum galleries dedicated permanently to live art, performance, installation, and film.

The Tanks are not mere rooms for display; they are vast, raw, industrial spaces that invite immersion and interaction. The architecture itself, a stark contrast to the pristine white walls of traditional gallery spaces, invites a unique kind of engagement. Sound reverberates off the rough concrete walls, filling these cavernous voids with an auditory experience that amplifies the impact of the exhibitions.

One such exhibition is that of the late Vivan Sundaram. His installation acts as a memorial, monument, and tomb, imbued with a sombre, haunting beauty. Sundaram’s “May 68” features recognisable forms suggestive of a troubled street scene. The clashing sounds of riot and turmoil are almost audible, echoing in the silence of The Tanks, enveloping the viewer in a tangible sense of unease.

In contrast, Rosa Barba’s exhibition explores the language of film in an entirely new light. Her piece, “Wirepiece,” sees a motorized light moving along a wire stretched across the room, creating a dance of shadows and light. The low hum of the motor, the faint whirring of the light’s movement, adds an auditory layer to this exploration of cinematic space.

Anna Barham’s exhibition, meanwhile, delves into the transformation of symbols and meanings. Her work with tangrams on a lightbox has a rhythmic quality, as the pieces click and clatter into place. Each rearrangement, each new formation of letters, is accompanied by a percussive soundtrack, creating an unexpected symphony of sound and vision.

Finally, Nira Pereg’s exhibition offers a poignant reflection on the interplay between Jewish and Muslim communities. The soundscape here is as layered and complex as the socio-political issues Pereg explores. Ambient sounds of everyday life, punctuated by the echoes of conflict and bureaucracy, are a powerful reminder of the realities that inspire her work.

For visitors seeking a rich auditory experience, we recommend taking the time to absorb the natural soundscape each exhibit creates. These are not galleries for quick perusal. Each piece, each space within The Tanks, invites you to linger, to listen, to lose yourself in the sensory symphony that the artists have orchestrated.

Whether it’s the almost tangible silence surrounding Sundaram’s memorial, the mechanical hum of Barba’s cinematic exploration, the rhythmic rearrangement of Barham’s symbols, or the poignant echoes of Pereg’s socio-political commentary, sound is not merely a component in these exhibitions – it is a powerful tool that shapes the viewer’s experience, giving depth and dimension to the visual narrative.

In The Tanks at Tate Modern, the world of art is not simply seen – it is heard, it is felt, it is experienced. And in this unique symphony of sight and sound, a new, metamodern form of artistic engagement is born. The Tanks are a testament to the transformative power of art and sound, a journey worth taking for any lover of the sensory and the sublime.

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Rob Watson

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