Ruins in Reverse – Tate Modern last failure

March 19, 2013 12:52 pm

tate modern

There are different ways to view ‘Ruins in Reverse’ and, unfortunately, none of them would make it seem good. The visitors of the new exhibition, hosted by the Project Space Tate Modern, will be disappointed, annoyed, even a bit anguished and definitely not delighted. ‘Ruins in Reverse’ is about the relationship between historical monuments and urban ruins. Or, as the self-important leaflet claims,

Ruins in Reverse sets up a central dichotomy between the matter-of-factness of an archaeological site and the fiction of its interpretation.”

All this pretentiousness should tell you something.

Next to the main entrance of the Tate Modern, the Project Space is a grey, quite small, block of reinforced concrete. If it wasn’t for the glass wall on the left hand side of the room, the Project Space could easily look like a bunker. Sharon Lerner and Flavia Frigeri set up the exhibition in collaboration with the Museo the Arte de Lima (Peru). Six artists showcased their works with the intention to describe the decadence of post-industrial civilisation. A couple of clever ideas do emerge from the exhibition but, really, nothing more than that.
In the middle of the room there is Haroon Mirza’s work: Cross section of a revolution. An old television repeatedly broadcasts a man from Lahore giving a speech. The volume is terribly high; there are no subtitles and no captions to explain what the purpose of the man screaming is. On the floor, next to the television, there is a LP player with a tape recorder on it broadcasting the noises of a construction site. Again, the volume is extremely high. And if this wasn’t enough, next to the LP player there are three TV screens, each one of them broadcasting a man with some kind of club hitting a rudimentary drum. The noise will get on your nerves, but if you can stop yourself from running out of the room, the rest of the exhibition isn’t too bad. Well, it can’t get any worse.

tate modern - ruins in reverse

On the left side of the room, Rä di Martino’s series of photographs represents the abandoned Star Wars movie sets in the North African desert. The artist’s idea was to act as an unofficial archaeologist of the movie industry’s ruins. Conceptually similar, Eliana Otta’s ‘Archaeology as Fiction’ and ‘Materiality as Fiction’ try to portray the disappearance of the Peruvian record industry through material souvenirs: vinyl records,cassettes and CDs. On the opposite side of the room, five or six pieces of cloth are hanging next to the glass wall. The artist, José Carlos Martinat, transferred some political parties’ logos on the fabric, trying to highlight the contrast between the reality of the signs’ original setting and the fiction associated with their placement inside the museum. Pablo Hare tried to represent the same concept in his series of pictures. He took photographs of different monuments, ranging from political personalities to a dinosaur and a tiger, all along the Peruvian Pacific coastline. The statues, which were supposed to embody the national spirit, don’t relate to their surroundings, looking completely non-sense. In the corner of the room, Amalia Pica’s video ‘On Education’ shows a man painting the statue of a horse in white. Pica makes fun of the monument as an educational tool, underlying the concept with the popular saying “What colour was the San Martin’s white horse?”

Perhaps, the impression that the place is claustrophobic is exaggerated by the non-stop loud noise. The concept behind the exhibition is actually interesting but the setting makes it impossible to appreciate. The fact that there are no captions underneath the works make it even worse with the only way to understand the purpose of the exhibition being to read the leaflet. Except that the noise makes it too hard for anyone to concentrate.
‘Ruins in Reverse’ is the perfect example of how a smart concept can be completely ruined by a bunch of artists, who definitely failed in communicating any kind of feeling.
Yes, a part from annoyance and irritation.

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