a unique perspective on this crazy world

what turns you on? ;)

You will either be relieved – or disappointed – but this is a G-rated post.  We are finally back in London.  At the rate I’m going I will be hitting Frankfurt airport again before I have dispensed with London… but I try to squeeze in some thoughts when I can…

So… the header relates to the small epiphany I had while I was roaming the cobblestones in East London, frequently lost or disorientated, but enjoying even those moments.

I live in a city where sport rules.  People are fit.  People do sport.  People watch sport.  People talk sport.  I’m not anti-sport – and fitter than the average North American – but I always feel like a freak in my hometown.

Cause sport just doesn’t turn me on the way art does.  I do enjoy the endorphin high from a good run – or the wonder of the landscape when you hike here in nature’s wonderland – but I am equally thrilled by a great building or awed by a visually and intellectually challenging piece of art.

So, without question, London turns me on 😉 Architecture, art, theatre, music – and some of the greatest intellectual achievements of mankind.  Each trip is different – but I always come away knowing a little more – and having my worldview challenged – and reshaped.

There were a number of intellectual experiences on this trip to London but this post will be about the Tate Modern.


I’m not always sure what to make of modern art.  There was a time when it seemed to be following the “Fifty Shades of Grey” route… it just needed to be shocking, not necessarily great art.  I saw quite a few head scratching exhibits and came away convinced there was no way the general public was going to walk away enlightened and I just decided it was stupid art…

As this blog demonstrates, I am not afraid of having an opinion 🙂 And I am a huge fan of making the world a smarter place, but elitist bullshit designed for a clique that excludes most of the population… you will not be getting a “like” from me on facebook.

And art straddles that complex space.  It is meant to be more than just pretty pictures.  So, I will always be enamoured of the Impressionists… and they were shocking in their time.  But I also love the idea of art as a vehicle to ask questions about – and hopefully change – society.

So I try to understand modern art.  And definitely toss myself into its wake to see what happens…

And at the Unilever Series at the Tate stuff does happen!  Sadly, this is the last year of it.  And I just realized it was happening.  I went to see some exhibits in the Tanks… hey, it sounded intriguing 🙂  They were OK – but what was more interesting was the history of the Unilever Series at the Tate.

A number of years ago now I went down a slide at the Tate.  Not exactly what you usually do at a museum!  And I tried to avoid it! 🙂  Because it wasn’t a slide made by an engineer… it was a slide made by an artist… so it looked like my cashmere sweater was not going to make it out alive…

But I had met these cool English guys at Whistler.  One was an artist and the other an art aficionado so that was how I ended up at the Unilever Series.  And they graciously offered to hold my sweater so I could go down the slide…

At the time I didn’t realize I was part of art history – and the Unilever Series!  But it was one of the puzzle pieces in helping me understand modern art, the idea of conceptual art… The slide was meant to have people participate in the art… and you did… it was rough and not terribly slidey… German engineers would have designed it so that you went from the fourth floor to the ground in a couple of seconds!  But then it wouldn’t have felt like an experience… worrying you might get stuck in the tube – and having to push yourself through at points – made it an experience… both for you and for the spectators watching you…

While I might have entered the slide reluctantly, this time I was trying to find the Unilever art… it’s meant to be conceptual and maybe not so obvious…

I had noticed on the way in there was a lot of movement in the Turbine Room… and some of it looked choreographed… but not in an obvious way… but after I’d spent my time in the Tanks, I stood and watched for a little while…

Obviously that was the “art” for 2012… random groups of dancers who looked like art students but then would spontaneously combust in a modern dance piece that had them moving fluidly amongst the crowd… being disconcerting but never actually touching someone.

I was thinking about trying to photograph it so was standing still for a while… when some older gentleman approached me…

Strangers talk to me all the time so I was suspicious right away… it was more like an actor’s monologue than a conversation.  Apparently he and his wife had just moved into this “ready-made community” and they wanted them to join the local council.  He went on for quite a while and it was strange – but entertaining.  I wondered if I was being filmed 🙂

Finally he asked what I thought about “ready-made communities”.  I think I might have made his day 🙂 I live in a city where planning is an important foundation of the metropolis so first we discussed that.  The concept of zoning and approving development to “create a community” a concept I am very familiar with – and have seen work well.

But the most interesting part of the conversation was when I talked about the sense of community I experienced as a child growing up in a small town.  It’s a genuine community.  And, if you don’t want people to know your business – or expect you to participate in the community – a bad choice.  But it also means the community keeps tabs and knows what is going on in a way that is really difficult in a large city like London.

So… in the end… he thanked me for the conversation… I walked away having not only SEEN the art – but having BEEN part of the art… and – most importantly – we agreed, if you want to be a badass criminal, you better move to the city… in proper communities, you will be sanctioned by your peers to behave better… kind of like how you can’t steal from your own grandmother… food for thought… what all great art should be…

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