Friday, 24 July 2009
2001: the spacemen descending into the moon pit, monolith at its centre.
Sticking on the 2001 and moon theme:
Last year, when I was living in Paris, I went to the annual Monumenta exhibit that is held at the Grand Palais – possibly the largest enclosed space I have ever been in. In fact, the space is so big that almost anything you put in it looks out of scale. Some artists, like Anselm Keifer, don’t even try to create installations that confront the space, but treat it almost like a warehouse, allowing them to collect together projects that would normally be impossible to exhibit alongside each other.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Floyd journeys by Pan Am spaceplane to the moon, where he examines a colossal pit dug into the surface: an archeological digging that has exposed the black monolith. Everything about the scene is designed to imply that the monolith has been there for eons, awaiting a new millennium people.
Serra's installation had a similar effect on me, in fact my first thought was that this light glass and iron structure had been built around the monoliths. There was an implication also of weightlessness - while easily twenty metres high, the slabs of corten (that slowly rusted over the course of the exhibit, exposing the finger and handprints of the visitors) were only 10cm thick, and none of them completely touched the concrete floor. At least one corner was raised, giving the impression that they were floating elements tethered loosely to the ground. As I watched the shadows of the dome play across the metal, I thought about how Serra had masterfully reversed the chronological order of the palace and its exhibit; typical of his incredible power over material and space.
Monumenta by Richard Serra, at the Grand Palais in 2008.