ARTYFACTS: The Crack and the Crackpot

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Crack and the Crackpot

Salcedo's crackpot ramblings
I’m writing this sitting right next to the giant crack in the turbine hall of the Tate Modern. Love the crack but not the artist’s ramblings. The programme was full of pointless rhetoric about colonial and post-colonial histories and memories but this was, basically, a crack. Her puerile rhetoric on separation is just hopeless as is the title 'Shiboleth' - sheer verbiage.

I'm surprised at the manufactured look of the crack. The fracture looks designed and not natural with lots of obviously designed angles. The wire mesh inside is also obviously not a statement but the guiding mesh for the subsequent excavation of the crack. There has been much speculation about its manufacture – to me it seemed obviously drilled out. You can see the concrete pattern traverse the crack showing that it has been dug out.

If you let the work speak for itself, it turns out to be something very good indeed. The crack snakes down the entire length of the hall eventually hitting a glass wall where it continues as a reflected image. The child’s game ‘don’t step on the crack’ floods back and it’s great to cross over, peer into and generally follow the thing to its end. At its widest its 8-9 inches but dips don to 2-3 feet at its deepest. It’s bold, disconcerting, worrying, edgy, and fun. As a work, it’s really a void, not a positive presence and the fact that it’s beneath your feet means that the reverence that surrounds work of art is impossible to maintain. You literally walk all over it.

I’ve never seen so many people photograph a work at one time. One guy even lined up small plastic soldiers at the crack’s edge to create his own work from the existing work. It draws its power from being a fracture on the floor a cleaved certainty (the ground we walk on). It just shouldn’t be there – but it is.

All of this raises an interesting aesthetic question. Can an artist accidentally create brilliant art? Does the intention of the artist always matter? Could the artist intend one thing but create another? Suppose you walked into the turbines hall and saw the crack. How many would get the colonial/post colonial link - few. It induces lots of reactions.


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