STUDENT BLOGS: Theatre in London: Sites, Sounds, and Situations
Pop Life: An Exploration of the New Exhibition at the Tate Modern
by Zack Lynch
On my last visit to London, I left the Tate Modern seriously distrubed. Was this art? WHAT WAS THAT?! I mean, "how can a person do THAT to THEMSELVES, video tape it, and call it art?". I will spare you the gore and grotesque details. Just like modern art, I'll let you fill in the blanks.
So I was very surprised to find myself there again on this trip, this time for a special exhibit on the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. This movement lasted well into the 80s, 90s and beyond, suddenly making the art form not seem as dated as I had previously expected.
This exhibition basically should have been entitled "Andy Warhol and few Damien Hirst pieces." Warhol dominated. The shocking thing about Andy Warhol and his work that ultimately stunned me was that Warhol was indeed a socialite. Yep, think of a "gifted Paris Hilton" with a wacky hair cut and you get Andy Warhol in the 70s and 80s.
A majority of the exhibit were newsprint photographs of Warhol kissing different celebrities, including but not limited to Liza Minelli, John Lennon and Jackie Onassis. And ultimately, you see the evolution of Warhol's work transcend from groundbreaking to strictly commercial. We come to find out that most of his work was for publications (Interview Magazine) and his own personal profit, doing portraits for celebrities and socialites for a fixed price (think the Marylin Monroe painting, only on Mick Jagger ... not so unique now is it?).
This got me thinking about the current state of theater, specifically musical theater. The genre now solely exists to make money off of something widely marketable and accepted. Warhol became a household name, and he continued to market himself that way... making more money and gaining more attention for himself, no matter what it cost him artistically. The state of musical theater now rests on the shoulders of fluffy, "feel-good" shows like Dirty Dancing (Oh, it exists over here). The show is fueled by its recognizable name and movie, its score of existing pop music hits and the worldwide interest in the late Patrick Swayze. The same thing can be said for ... Thriller Live! The Musical. Can you guess what that is about?
My favorite piece in the exhibition was by Damien Hirst. There was this beautiful gold case, and in it on tiny shelves... were multiple rows of diamonds. Behind the shelves, a mirror served as the back wall. When you looked into the case, you saw your reflection... but instead, you not only existed in your own form ... but it looked as if you were covered with diamonds. It was beautiful. And the title stopped me cold ... it was entitled "(Memories)/(Moments) with You". How romantic? It was this piece that made me forget about the commercializing of art, and instead focus solely on how art made me feel. And that was how I learned to appreciate the Tate Modern and ultimately, I left very satisfied.