I have to admit that I was underwhelmed by the finalists in the Turner Prize this year, with the three finalists that I saw apparently focussed on social documentary more than art. It didn’t help that when I visited, the fourth was not working, undergoing maintenance. The Tate Britain website advises that to see all four would require over fifteen hours of viewing, quite a marathon.
Much more impressive was Tamsin Snow’s exhibition last year at Block 336, down in deepest Brixton in a flexible basement space underneath a 1970′s modernist concrete and glass building, its roughness and brutalism contrasting with the refinement and precision in Tamsin Snow’s work. Tamsin is not British and, sadly, therefore not eligible for the Turner Prize.
When you arrived, the entrance was a cool white reception area, clean and clinical, uncluttered with the signs, leaflets, out-of-date magazines and the clutter which NHS hospital receptions seem to attract.
Beyond, you entered another controlled environment, this time darkened, with a light grey carpet leading to the immersive video with deep – almost religious – commentary playing at the end of the space. Architecture, science, technology and health were all interwoven through the black and white images linking to the precise mathematical architecture of Mies van der Rohe.
The environment was devoid of human beings which only clutter up clean clinical architectural spaces. Architectural photographers never allow people to intrude into their photographs. What appears as the reception of a sophisticated office block is soon shown to be that of a medical facility, where you will be frozen and stored until some future date when you can be reawakened, all disease taken care off, into a new clean uncluttered world, with a subtle theme that only people who are perfect or, through medical treatment can be made perfect, will be allowed to travel through time and inhabit this new world in the future. Perfect clinical architectural settings need perfect clinical humans to occupy them……but what is the result of this physical perfection on the character of the human being – has he or she become an automaton or a robot. What will happen to human characteristics such as emotion, laughter, love…..? Is this the future that we are destined for…. ? Tamsin’s installation presents a sequence to watch over and over again as you ask yourself that question and think about what the future might hold….