The Tate we’re in

January 25, 2007 at 5:06 pm (Double espresso, UK)


H. is doctor, and no relation to Kafka’s K. “Breakfast?” he said. I’d eaten porridge. Also, had to deal with a bank charge related to the hypnotherapist I visited two weeks ago. She clocks £80 for an hour. How would I judge whether the therapy had worked, she asked. The thing is, if you’re paying that much, anything will. “Dance on shards of glass? Sure, if you say so — it’s lacerations of mind that worry me.”

I met H. at Oval station and we strolled into the crisp and cold London morning. Feeling unduly bloated, I said: “Is it possible my belly has expanded overnight?”

“Have you eaten a lot of porridge?” said H. — I was dead impressed. Unaware of my morning Ready Brek ritual (it’s been two weeks, now) H. pointed out both it and the boiled eggs, which I’m into at the moment, as culprits.

Anyway, we ended up at the Tate Britain where there is a sculpture/installation called State Britain, by Mark Wallinger. Wallinger has recreated the ongoing demo against the war by Brian Haw outside the Palace of Westminster. Haw has been there since 2001, when he was protesting against sanctions on Iraq. In May, the government introduced legislation to ban such demos taking place within a kilometre of Parliament Square.

The exhibition recreates every detail of Haw’s original set-up — colour and black and white photocopies of dead children, handwritten slogans and blow-ups of anti-war graphic art from the internet, tea flasks, a milk carton, rainbow peace flags. It is a haunting an powerful work.

H. and I observed a mother with two very young children, four or five years old. They were quizzing her. She, gently, explained to them how “some soldiers had are sent out to kill other soldiers”. There was a picture showing the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Jack Straw having dipped their hands into three bowls. “What’s in the bowls mummy?” one little girl said. “It’s not very nice,” mamma bear said, “but I think it’s blood.”

Click here to read Times reviewer Tim Teeman’s poo-poo the work. “A pro-war, pro-Blair work of art,” he writes, “now that would be radical.” Honestly, Murdoch press (don’t worry Tim, I’m sure the Tate’ll run a Campbell-Mandelson retrospective soon).

Yesterday, Mr Blair failed to show up to a debate in Parliament about the war; and today’s worthy (and headline-grabbing) defence of adoption rights for gay people in the face of opposition from the Catholic church is sure to distract us from asking why.

H. and I walked the short distance from the Tate to Parliament Square. Brian Haw was there, with his hat on, reading a book.


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