not a football in sight

Sunday afternoon. The previous night, England lost. It seemed a good idea to stretch our legs and get a breath of fresh air, and an even better idea to take advantage of the fact that in under 45 minutes we can walk to Tate Britain. Grey skies and a stiff breeze hurried us on, through Battersea Park and then along Grosvenor Road, beside the Thames, and the rapidly changing riverfront. Then up the steps of Tate Britain and ahead into the Duveen galleries, pitched straight into Phyllida Barlow‘s breathtaking installation dock. Immersive isn’t quite the right word. Overwhelming is nearer. Teetering ramshackle structures of rough planks and spray painted cross struts dominate the first gallery. From these, huge rusty-looking freight containers dangle precrariously. The fact that the containers are actually made from polystrene and foam doesn’t diminish their impact. I still ducked as I walked beneath and around them. Some are burst open, revealing a splurge of messy stuff inside, like crushed meringue. Mess, excess, waste. As you move through the galleries there are more large scale sculptures: accumulations of wooden posts like a giant pile of pick-up-sticks; a towering column of cardboard held together by slapdash bandages of yellow, orange and pink tape; more knocked-together wooden structures, rather like the underside of a pier, topped by overhanging bundles of carpet and roofing felt, plastic sacks stuffed with scap material; a giant cardboard cylinder suspended from the ceiling; plywood panels daubed in muted pastel colours are tacked to something like a spectator stand gone wrong. The more I looked, the more I saw. I thought about flotsam and jetsam, about low value and no value materials, about consumption and overabundance. About unconventional beauty, and finding aesthetic pleasure in the ordinary and the discarded. dock is more than something to behold, it is something to experience and be inhabited by.

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