'OCTOBER 2058 - TATE MODERN - LONDON
'It rains incessantly in London – not a day, not an hour without rain, a deluge that has now lasted for years and changed the way people travel, their clothes, leisure activities, imagination and desires. They dream about infinitely dry deserts.'This continual watering has had a strange effect on urban sculptures. As well as erosion and rust, they have started to grow like giant, thirsty tropical plants, to become even more monumental. In order to hold this organic growth in check, it has been decided to store them in the Turbine Hall, surrounded by hundreds of bunks that shelter – day and night – refugees from the rain.'
Dominique Gonzales-Foerster, 'TH.2058'
Last weekend Jennifer and I decided to head to the city of London to get away from it all. It was time to kick back, enjoy a little sunshine, and, yes, do a little shopping. We had a lovely morning drinking coffee and browsing windows amidst the hustle and bustle of the Saturday traffic, and stopped by a vegetarian fast-food restaurant for lunch. So far, so good. But it wasn't long before our itinerary, barely existent to begin with, faded out into a directionless kind of white noise. We walked along the South Bank and stared out at the Thames, suddenly unsure of ourselves or where we were headed.
As fate would have it, we drifted into the Tate Modern gallery, and noticed a brand new exhibition had just kicked off all around us. Before we had chance to catch a breath, we were suddenly immersed in the strange alternate reality of a dark dystopian future.
Gigantic sculptures were arranged strategically around the main turbine hall, and below were row upon row of multicoloured bunk-beds. People walked among them in a kind of trance-like daze, some stopping to sit or lie down where they were. And on each bed was a different book by a different writer from a different time, but the theme remained the same: cataclysm, catastrophe and the end of the world.
'On the beds are books saved from the damp and treated to prevent the pages going mouldy and disintegrating. On every bunk there is at least one book, such as JG Ballard's The Drowned World, Jeff Noon's Vurt, Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle, but also Jorge Luis Borges's Ficciones and Roberto Bolaño's 2666.
'On one of the beds, hidden among the giant sculptures, a lonely radio plays what sounds like distressed 1958 bossa nova. The mass bedding, the books, images, works of art and music produce a strange effect reminiscent of a Jean-Luc Godard film, a culture of quotation in a context of catastrophe.
'In the shelter, the prone figures are reminiscent of Henry Moore's 'shelter drawings', while his sculpture for sheep stands next to a giant apple core by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Museums have been closed for years because of water seepages and the high level of humidity. In the huge collective shelter that the Turbine Hall has become, a fantastical and heterogeneous montage develops, including sculpture, literature, music, cinema, sleeping figures and drops of rain.'
Dominique Gonzales-Foerster, 'TH.2058'
It was a great idea. The Tate Modern was exhibiting an artwork comprising many different artworks, from contemporary sculpture to classic literature to a range of European and American films. The recurrent theme seemed to be a preoccupation with the 'last things', with finality. It was all a little on the ostenatatious side, but when a spectator is immersed in an exhibit like this there's no time for a timid approach; the exhibition was fun, and it rendered the artworks as an enclosing experience for the people walking around. Jennifer and I sat for awhile on one of the beds, looking up at the huge reproduction of the Louise Bourgeois sculpture 'Maman' (1999) and contemplating the universe. Existential terror was never so much fun.