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Some evenings work out fabulously. It was good enough that I knew I was going to see the Susan Hiller show this evening at the Tate. It was a private showing with the artist, the museum opened up just for our group, spacious and tranquil.

There are some fascinating pieces in the show. One which inspired an extensive discussion among two of us was called Enquiries/Inquiries, and extracted a large number of questions/answers from old English and old American encyclopedias, projecting them side by side as if still from a slide projector, on flatscreen televisions, but with the ongoing soundtrack of changing slides, when appropriate.

One of my favorites was a whole room installation entitled Witness. It was dark and large and thin lines of nearly pearly wire ran down from the ceiling creating a space like a grove of willows. The hush was full of murmur, a babeling of sound which crescendeoes and died. I walked around it it slowly, around the edge, the room all to myself, not touching. Only when I was around halfway around did I come close enough to one of the circular wire ends and realize it had its own unique commentary. Each wire ended at head heights - a whole swathe of different possible head heights - and each was a small speaker for listening to personal confessions of UFO and alien encounters of different varieties. I spent a good ten or fifteen minutes listening to commentary, other people gradually discovering the room too. Some would flit through the forest from speaker to speaker. Others, like me, would stay to listen through the end of an anecdote or more, frozen into stillness like some of the people we were listening to had been in their alien encounters.

Another one I quite liked was a cabinet of small, stoppered bottles of water, all different, collected from holy water sites the world over, from particular counties in the UK, from Greece, from Egypt, from the Ganges, from the Jordan. So much travel, so many adventures could have gone into its makikng - and that is before taking into account that it is an homage to Joseph Beuys.

And then, after canapés and wine and conversation with the artist and with friends, I ended up at Perdido Pollen Street Social, the new Jason Atherton restaurant with a dessert bar. (The dessert bar, of course, being one of the major elements which caught my attention in advance descriptions.) We had tapas and cocktails at the bar. The char-grilled prawns were fiddly but very tasty; my fingers still smell nicely because of them. The lamb chops were, improbably, even more fiddly than the prawns; the sauce was good, a rich infusion of onions, jus, capers, something citrus, and something berry-y, but the prawns were better. Also, I should have asked for a real cutting knife. The rhubarb bellini was undermined by its hint of vanilla, which gave it echoes of candy rather than enhancing the complementary bitterness. Indeed, I could scarcely taste the rhubarb. Still, the space is pleasant, the staff are a delight, and I'm only being picky because it seemed fundamentally solid in the first place.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
I was sort of surprised the Hiller doesn't come with a health warning - it might give people nightmares. No clowns, but the punch and judy installation was pretty full on. Witness is beautiful. The whole thing was inspiring.

I'd gone for the watercolours and done it as a bonus. I'd do this again but not the watercolours - some good stuff there, but nowhere near as exciting.

May. 4th, 2011 09:49 pm (UTC)
I only had about 50 minutes with the show - a downside of the format - so mostly concentrated on parts of the show which were empty when I found them. I hope to go back in the next week, i.e. before it closes, since I missed the Punch and Judy installation and you are the second person to have mentioned it as memorable!

I went through Watercolours the other week - it is not a particularly coherent show although, as you say, some good stuff in it.
May. 4th, 2011 03:58 am (UTC)
Given that allergy season is in full swing, "Pollen Street" just seems ... unnecessarily cruel for an address. Although it's better than Ragweed Street, I guess.

It's so easy to overwhelm rhubarb. It's rare to find a dessert that doesn't go over the edge somehow with an ingredient that's supposed to simply complement the rhubarb.

The Hiller show sounds amazing. I'm particularly intrigued by "Witness." And, of course, by the holy water, but that's less about the art than the religion-nerd thing for me. ;-)
May. 4th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
True - but that really is what the street it is on is named. I wonder why.

So many cooks and bakers seem scared of rhubarb! Even strawberry-rhubarb pie can be rather scant on the rhubarb.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )