Sunday, February 18, 2007

Over the winking bridge

Gateshead has an Art Gallery right next to the famous winking bridge. Housed in a former flour mill, it has five floors of galleries with scenic glass elevators, as well as a striking (and slightly bouncy) steel staircase the full height of the building (the stair-well of which has also been used as exhibition space on occasions).

Last Friday, Grandma Pat, young David and myself passed an hour or so in the space. David and I had visited previously and it was interesting to notice how the exhibits were completely different, but yet, something of the same in their resonance.

Starting as high as the lift normally takes you to level five, there is a balcony looking over into the highest gallery on level four. (There is a Restaurant on level six but it is reservations only). There is also the viewing box- a large projecting window out towards the five town bridges of the Tyne, namely the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the Tyne Bridge (the one like the Sydney Harbour one), the Swing Bridge, the High Level Bridge (both rail and road), and Redheugh Bridge. (There are two more beyond, the Metro tramway bridge and the Western bypass bridge which used to be near the Chain Bridge and then a Box Girder replacement that had to be dismantled when they all started collapsing).

On level four, the exhibit was by Brian Eno (of Roxy Music) and was called Constellations (77 Million Paintings). The visitor is presented with 42 plasma and LCD screens of various sizes arranged quasi-symmetrically on a black wall in a darkened gallery. The screens appear to show static images but if you stay there long enough, they can be seen to imperceptably change accompanied by something described as interwoven sound ambient music.

Two couches and three benches across the centre of the gallery provided a suitable position to watch the ever-changing slides. I expected David to lose interest rapidly but he was fascinated, pointing out shapes and patterns that were gradually coming or going. Me being me, I worked out which screens were showing the same image in a different orientation and what hardware the computers probably had installed...

Moving down through the building, the next level had very large photo portraits by Brazilian Artist Vik Muniz. He photographs the faces reconstructed using differing materials (sometimes related to the topic), such as soil, toy soldiers, diamonds, berries, chocolate and even blood for Bloody Marilyn.

Below on level two, there was a smaller exhibition by American Artist Joseph Havel (the rest of the gallery was closed off beyond). the theme was night and the exhibits included a sort of suspended draped sheet made up entirely of cloth labels with the word "dream", a curtain made up of stars cut out of American Flags and bent wire wrapped in shirt material and shaped into words. There were also a large number of shallow boxes arranged in a rectangle that also appeared to be full of cloth labels but it wasn't clear what they said (or what the idea was).

Down on level one, a rather curious Marcus Coates exhibition of audio-visual impersonated birdsong was in progress, blogged about in another post. This was occasionally funny as well!

At Ground level, Indian Artist Subodh Gupta had created a new work which consisted of hundreds of stainless steel pots stacked in various sizes and groupings, slowly inching their way around a long endless track zig-zagging across a large square table on a mechanism not unlike airport luggage belts and a layout reminiscent of queues in large post offices. There were two other installations in the room. One was a heap of sacks, the other some sort of rubbery rods drooping drom the wall three-dimensionally.

The Baltic has a large gift shop with some unusual items that you won't find in your municipal museum, including a range of Danish rubbery household items in vivid colours and an artistic flair such as washing up bowls and dustpan & brush sets. You can also buy a DVD of the famous installation where thousands of people got their kit off and stood on the Millennium bridge. David found this a bit disturbing because of all of the boobies and wasn't overly convinced that it was OK because it was being done for artistic reasons. And no, he couldn't take his clothes off and lie on the bridge, that would be silly...

3 comments:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Nice post. I can just visualise David's reaction! I want to visit there when I next come over.

james higham said...

Brian Eno is still about?

Ian Grey said...

He certainly is, Google Brian Eno Artist...

Welshcakes, the exhibits regularly change so they may have beds and bricks when you go. Fantastic setting though!