Tate Modern, Level 3, Room 10

In Tate Modern, Level 3, Room 10, there’s an installation by Cornelia Parker which consists of many pieces of old silverware, cutlery, trays and pots – flattened if necessary and suspended by wires from a high ceiling to hang a matter of centimetres from the floor.  The silverware is arranged in clumps which form thin circular discs just under a metre in diameter in a rectangular grid, six by five.

In Tate Modern, Level 3, Room 10, there’s an installation which reeks of betrayal.  There are 30 pieces of silver – and, worse, it’s antique silver from the time of British Empire with all its exploitative excesses betrayng common humanity.  It’s the family silver, sold or abandoned by families betrayed by circumstances or betraying each other. 

In Tate Modern, Level 3, Room 10, there’s an installation which speaks of the comfort and closeness of family.  The familiar utensils of family mealtimes form perfect circles in close groups, separate from, but similar to, that of others.  Each circle is different, though each is superficially the same.  All is in order.

In Tate Modern, Level 3, Room 10, there’s an installation which speaks of the nature of matter.  Similarity and predictability at a macro level is revealed as difference when examined.  That which looks still and stable is revealed on closer examination to be moving, and worse, it’s diverse and different.  But look closer again and there are patterns – forks, trays, and so on – recur.  Closer still and the actual matter from which the things are made is revealed to be the same.  Focus back a little and you see crisp clear shadows modelling the shapes above, modelling the mathematical essence of the material above.

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Enjoying what you do

At Royal Festival Hall on Thursday evening for a performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Haydn Op. 104 London Symphony and Bruckner 9 – two last symphonies).

Excellent performance, superbly conducted by Zubin Mehta who conducted both pieces without a score (or a guard rail).

But I was most struck by this …

The Orchestra were serious people, playing serious music.  An average age in the 40s, I’d estimate.  These are serious musicians and the rules of the Vienna Philharmonic include that anyone who wants to play with them has to play with the Vienna Opera Orchestra for three years first.  They were expertly, and fairly grimly producing music of excellence – doing that thing that great orchestras do of conjuring out of a startling number of simultaneous instruments something of great beauty which is thrown away into thin air. Like a painter painting on a flowing river.

Now, one of the musicians looked about 12, which as I age I am beginning to realise means he was probably in his early 20s.  And he, he was grinning.  Damn it all there he was playing with the Vienna Philharmonic surrounded by this fabulous music, being conducted by Zubin Mehta to a packed auditorium in London  and he was smiling.  He was happy.  He was having so much fun that he couldn’t help but convey it.  Packing his case and trogging to the airport probably wasn’t fun.  Practising incessantly may not be that great.  Having to play music you don’t particularly care for, can’t be much fun…

But right there, right then, for him that was clearly what it was all for and he didn’t mind showing it – or couldn’t help showing it.

And I enjoyed it more as a result.  And I wondered whether the rest of the orchestra were enjoying it this much too.

Work is compatible with fun, at least occasionally, and it’s wearying when we don’t show it, and energising when we do.