Thursday, 1 June 2017

Tillmans at the Tate

I popped into take a look at the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at the Tate Modern. Perhaps that was my mistake. To pop in.

It's because the vast exhibition covers much of the printed materials from Tillmans. Usually an exhibition is curated with handy signage on the walls to assist understand the theming or the context of particular sections. For this exhibition, such niceties had been removed, with the main exhibits being self-curated by the artist.

To be honest, I found this quite a tall order for a viewer. There's nothing to say that art has to be easy to understand, but I've been to plenty of other large exhibitions and been able to deduce the main themes, ideas or points as I walked through the rooms.

Here it sees to be all about the viewer needing to make the connections. Through quite a lot of static. Quite literally, with a whole wall dedicated to the white noise from the end of a digital broadcast (Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast V). Or an oft-reproduced picture of a fly picking over the remains of lobster. Maybe a metaphor for a gallery visitor?

Some aspects of this show reminded me of my recent garage cleansing. I'd sometimes take a pile of papers or whatnots and spread them out on a carpet in order to decide if there was anything of value to keep.

It could be that Tillmans adopted a similar approach. Find a drawer of related material and spread it out over a wall or some paste tables?

That's not to say there weren't some interesting items around the displays. I liked the idea of the Truth Study Centre section, which examined the psychology of manipulation and included some recent examples.

My picture shows it from another exhibition, which somehow looks more structured than the browser screen print version on display at the Tate.

Not exhibited, Tillman also produced a series of anti-Brexit posters, which did provide more of a focus within his work, and some good finished product, although even in that series there were some rather less finished items.

However, because the exhibit took a whole room and many of the pieces were google page snaps from learned articles, it became difficult to process. More like someone was researching for a book and had decided to spread out all of their Evernote clippings as printed pages.

Some of the photographs were interesting and extremely wide-ranging. Tillmans has clearly travelled extensively and we were treated to many aspects of his world view. However, I couldn't help thinking that some would make good paperback covers, rather than that they were exquisite fine art.

It made the show a challenge for me. Perhaps that was the intention? The materials were very diverse but, to me, somehow scrappy. Just printing it large doesn't make it brilliant, nor does fire-hosing the ideas at an audience. The picture above shows one of the more grounded juxtapositions, this one between a spacey modern car headlight's angular aggression and a peaceful blue night scape.

I decided to move along, alas, somehow less moved than I should have been.

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