Saturday, 16 October 2010

The surreal to the ridiculous

An unusual moment at work today. I had to get out of a lift I was about to use because the alarm was going off, indicating it was loaded above its maximum weight-bearing capability. Not that odd, really. But what was odd was what was responsible for the bulk of that weight. A ball of chocolate about the size of one of those weird blue exercise balls that you're supposed to do God knows what with, dragged on a wheeled trolley by five lads. I was reliably informed as I bailed out of the lift to leave them to get on with it, that it weighed in excess of 250kg. Now I eat a fair bit of chocolate but that's impressive by any standards. I later saw it being pawed at by Chris Evans as a prop on The One Show, which is filmed in the building in which I work. Got to wonder what's happening to it afterwards, though.

Moving on to today's news, though, there was as usual something in there to irritate me today. It seems that the new installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern has been roped off, and punters prevented from interacting with it in the artist's desired manner. For anybody unfamiliar with it, the entire floor of the hall, save for a walkway down one side kept clear, has been carpeted with 100 million (yep, 100 million) hand painted porcelain sunflower seeds. The point was for visitors to walk among them, to sit on and among them, to handle them, to interact with the installation. And so they did, for a day or so, until the most dread phrase in the modern news vernacular struck it down, and it was closed for health and safety reasons. This is the utterly ludicrous world we now live in, where men genuinely risking their health and lives underground in mines in Chile are not sufficiently protected because of a blithe disregard for genuine Health and Safety considerations, but people in no real danger and capable of determining the risk level for themselves in London are denied access to an art installation because of porcelain dust. Or, more accurately, because of the risk of being sued by people claiming to have inhaled porcelain dust.

Really, truly, we Joe Public have only ourselves to blame. The opening up of advertising to the ambulance-chasing solicitors has exposed the grim venality of a British public all too willing to take quick and bare-faced advantage. It appears that the Tate Modern has paid off claimants who reported injuries received using previous installations such as the giant slide or the crack in the floor. Somebody was evidently insufficiently prescient to work out that a slide involved downward movement at high velocity, and another that a bloody great crack in the ground represented a trip hazard. OK, fair enough, don't let small kids loose on these things unattended, but for an adult to blame the gallery for such incidents of their own stupidity, clumsiness or bad luck, and then claim money for it, leaves us with logical, extreme and depressing result.

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