Tate Modern’s Switch House review – brain-fizzing art to power a pyramid

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Tate Modern's Switch House review – brain-fizzing art to power a pyramid

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Tate Modern's Switch House review – brain-fizzing art to power a pyramid

Supersized sculpture, live performance and piles of goo get the airing they deserve in an expansion full of surprise – the 360-degree lookout is art itself

The Switch House feels like it belongs. The twisted, off-kilter pyramid of Tate Modern’s new extension is terrific not only on its own terms, but also in its impact on the rest of Herzog & de Meuron’s original conversion of Bankside power station into contemporary art gallery in 2000.

Fifteen years, dozens of major exhibitions, several rehangs and four directors later, all those suns, slides, cracks, sunflower seeds and other weird encounters in the Turbine Hall have made Tate Modern more popular than anyone – including the gallery – could have imagined. While the hope, often expressed, that the Switch House might siphon off some of the main gallery overcrowding may be an illusion, the way we encounter and look at art has changed, and there is an effort here to encourage as well as accommodate live art, the ephemeral and the temporary; art that is as much about people as the things they make.

Beneath the Switch House, in a space formerly occupied by the power station’s oil tanks, five performers are acting out famous artworks, without using any props. A lone woman does the Mona Lisa, with a constipated look and a weak smile. Everyone lies on the floor as Shibboleth, the crevice Doris Salcedo dug into the floor of the Turbine Hall in 2007. Standing together and uttering sonorous moans, they become a living, singing simulacra of Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals, one of the highlights of Tate Modern’s collection – except they aren’t fuzzy and they are not purple. You need to use your imagination.

Beneath the Switch House, in a space formerly occupied by the power station’s oil tanks, five performers are acting out famous artworks, without using any props. A lone woman does the Mona Lisa, with a constipated look and a weak smile. Everyone lies on the floor as Shibboleth, the crevice Doris Salcedo dug into the floor of the Turbine Hall in 2007. Standing together and uttering sonorous moans, they become a living, singing simulacra of Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals, one of the highlights of Tate Modern’s collection – except they aren’t fuzzy and they are not purple. You need to use your imagination. […]

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