I was immediately curious about the new installation at the Tate as part of this year’s Liverpool Biennial. ‘A Needle walks into a Haystack’ is not only a complete change in the viewing mechanism of a usually straightforward exhibition setting, but the fact that the ‘mind’ behind it is an architect coming into an artistic environment really caught my interest.
In my work I am constantly looking for parallels and juxtapositions that either complement or alienate each other. This way I can look at the way my own pieces can be collaborated with or against, providing, like this installation, a different mode of viewer interaction… and ultimately provoking enquiry.
So let me tell you a little more about Claude Parent and his partnership with the Tate…
A prominent figure of the 1960’s and 1970’s in the French avant-garde, as an architect he wanted to radically challenge the norm by coming up with environments that challenged human behaviour. His main belief was that our homes are over furnished and hence wanted to make them less commodified and inherently playful by installing diagonal (oblique) walls, ramps and sloping surfaces.
The curators of the Tate worked closely with Parent over 10 months to carefully plan the installation.
A couple of main factors made this an even more intriguing project: the fact that Parent is now 91 years old mean that he was unable to travel and the other being that he doesn’t (and never has) used computers. His two assistants would be his link to the project and decipher his drawings to work within the depicted space. These drawings would be the key connecting element bridging ‘art and architecture’ and I really agree with this. I have posted a few of his old drawings and they look more sci-fi than drawing plans and I love this!! He was (and still is) revolutionary. If you look at the buildings he has built, they are wow, they truly catch your eye, imagination and spirit. And to think that one of his most inspirational places were the old bunkers on the Atlantic ocean (north France).It was also up to Parent to personally select which artworks out of the Tate collection he would like to go into the installation. For the Tate this meant they had to relinquish control and let Parent do as he wished… utilising Parent’s vast experience of designing these radical environments was a complete necessity and I’m glad the Tate decided to do this. His choice of paintings such as the one by Picabia (first image on this post) is featured next to a sloping wall and it fits perfectly with the contours involved on the canvas. In addition, the close confines of the space symbolise the fact that this particular painting was originally censored by the establishment.Close by there’s a set of incline ramps and different level of platform right next to a film projection of a dancer. Its not often you find a place to be able to sit in a museum but here in this space you could plonk yourself down in front of it if you wished, or lie down on the side of the platform.
I really liked this idea of the body being able to behave differently in a different space. I know that I was unsure if there were areas I wouldn’t be allowed to go into and there was definitely a notion of trespassing as I walked up the incline to a narrow viewing platform painted in bright yellow.
If you want to research Claude Parent more then you should investigate his ‘Twelve Subversive Acts to Dodge the System’, a published manifesto outlining a set of rules that dissolves the categories and order systems on which architecture is conventionally determined. I love the fact that he was a radical thinker, that he challenged the status quo and went ahead with his own ideas with a passion that meant he lived and followed them day by day. I also respect that the Tate acknowledges that their traditional spaces could be revised in order to encourage more audience participation. ‘Making a space within a space’ is an intriguing notion and rewarding future prospect.
*Special note that while the Claude Parent exhibition will end on the 26th October, the installation will be continued to be used as part of the next exhibition so there will still be a chance to wander, or lie down, in it for a while longer!