GILL was the first reader to correctly guess, e-mailing to ask: "Are these from the famous 'crack in the floor' (can't remember what it is really called) in the Tate Modern?"
Following which ANDY J LATHAM commented: "Those tragedies CRACKED me up Brian! Speaking of tragedies, that wouldn't happen to be the Tate Modern would it? Oooooooo!"
While PHIL was bold enough to say what, doubtless, many have thought: "Isn't that the rather silly crack in the floor of the Tate Modern, which is being passed of as art? And which several people have rather foolishly fallen into?"
Well, yes, Phil it is; and, yes, Andy it would; and, yes Gill, they are!
In fact, these iconoclastic additions to a modern work of art were temporarily (and somewhat impertinently!) added to Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth (that's what it's really called, Gill): a lengthy crack that has opened in the floor of the Turbine Hall of London's Tate Modern like a localized earthquake...
Here's how the Tate's exhibition-notes describe this installation - or, perhaps, 'intervention' would be a better word:
Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth is the first work to intervene directly in the fabric of the Turbine Hall. Rather than fill this iconic space with a conventional sculpture or installation, Salcedo has created a subterranean chasm that stretches the length of the Turbine Hall. The concrete walls of the crevice are ruptured by a steel mesh fence, creating a tension between these elements that resist yet depend on one another.Yes... Well, I'm not altogether sure I understand some of that, but I really like the way Shibboleth begins as nothing more than a hair-line crack - scarcely more than a scratch on the surface - and then splits open and widens and deepens as it snakes down the length of the Hall.
By making the floor the principal focus of her project, Salcedo dramatically shifts our perception of the Turbine Hall’s architecture, subtly subverting its claims to monumentality and grandeur. Shibboleth asks questions about the interaction of sculpture and space, about architecture and the values it enshrines, and about the shaky ideological foundations on which Western notions of modernity are built.
In particular, Salcedo is addressing a long legacy of racism and colonialism that underlies the modern world. A ‘shibboleth’ is a custom, phrase or use of language that acts as a test of belonging to a particular social group or class. By definition, it is used to exclude those deemed unsuitable to join this group.
"The history of racism", Salcedo writes, "runs parallel to the history of modernity, and is its untold dark side". For hundreds of years, Western ideas of progress and prosperity have been underpinned by colonial exploitation and the withdrawal of basic rights from others. Our own time, Salcedo is keen to remind us, remains defined by the existence of a huge socially excluded underclass, in Western as well as post-colonial societies.
In breaking open the floor of the museum, Salcedo is exposing a fracture in modernity itself. Her work encourages us to confront uncomfortable truths about our history and about ourselves with absolute candidness, and without self-deception.
At first glance it looks like a candidate for such comments as Phil's observation (above) or "Is it art, demolition work, or Act of God?" But what is fascinating about Shibboleth is that it really does look as if it were a crack that has split open and even though quite a lot of flooring material has been removed in order to create the fissure, the edges of each side of the excavated area are so perfectly matched - from the tiniest wriggle to the most sharply-angled bend, as to suggest that if the two edges could somehow be pushed back together, they would fit with jig-saw precision.
Like many installations, Shibboleth is also about the relationship between 'art' and 'spectator' and much of the fascination with viewing the work is in terms of viewing how people react to it: lying down to peer into its depths, stepping back and forth across it as if they were giants passing to and fro over the Grand Canyon, even now and again - as Phil noted - falling into it under the mistaken assumption that must be painted onto the floor rather than carved into it!
And, of course, there's always a chance that you might be able to photograph a curious little fellow...
...photographing Dinky cars, LEGO men and assorted plastic wildlife in scenes of Lilliputian tragedy!
Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks, © 2007