The Tate Modern Slides

We’re all adolescents at heart.

Although I’d been planning to visit the British Museum, since Harry and Richard kept raving about the slides in the Tate Modern, I followed their instruction.  Crossing over to the Jubilee line, which is SO far underground you figure you’re immune to warfare.  Assuming, of course, the whole thing doesn’t collapse.  In the modern style, you can see all the INFRASTRUCTURE!  All the beams, all the concrete and metal holding the escalators and holes UP!  The visuals are a museum unto themselves.

Emerging into daylight, and what cold daylight it was, under fifty degrees, I followed the sign with no museum in sight.  But, just when I became totally confused I noticed orange lampposts, shepherding me in the right direction.

The Tate Modern is an old power station converted into an art space.  It’s HUGE!  With a central hall seemingly large enough for a 747.  And upon entering this space, via the miniscule glass doors, I was confronted with them, the tubes.

The Tate Modern – The Unilever Series: Carsten Höller

Now I’m the guy who got frightened driving bumper cars when nobody else was on the grid.  After a bad experience in my single digits, I didn’t get back on a roller coaster until my twenties.  But I LOVED the slide.  You remember, those towering silver edifices on the school playground?  The ones upon which you placed waxed paper so you’d go down faster?  The ones you used to descend upon head first, ON YOUR BACK?!!

Yes, I still can’t fathom how I survived.  For at the end of the slide was a drop.  Right into the dirt.  Have they banned slides yet?  Do parents let their kids utilize them?  Seesaws?  Jungle gyms?

Anyway, upon getting to the front of the line, for the free tickets, I was informed that I couldn’t ride until five.  Three and a half HOURS from now.  But if I had the urge, I could ascend to the second floor and partake on one of the two lower slides.

I figured they were for wimps.  Little kids.

But right in front of me in line were a pair of punks.  With tattoos and piercings.  And motorcycle boots.

And there were a couple of septuagenarians too.

And when my fifteen minute wait was up, I inserted my feet into the pocket of the burlap sack, laid down, crossed my arms and scooted myself forward like a bug until…I TOOK OFF!

I mean they weren’t gonna let you go down if you could get hurt, RIGHT?  I mean this is a fucking MUSEUM!  It’s SAFE, right?

But the very first turn, to the left, it threw my shoulder out of whack.  And then I was sliding round and round, down the rabbit hole, thrilled, yet scared.  And when I got to the bottom I determined that I had to do it again.  But HIGHER!

I went over to the ticket booth.  And retrieved a ducat for the slide from the third floor at five.  The upper slides, from floors four and five, being sold out.

And I figured I’d never partake.  Since it was hours away.  But I got caught up in these exhibits.  One of David Smith’s sculpture.  It was fascinating to see his development from inception to the stainless steel structures he welded just before he was killed in a car crash. 

The Tate Modern – David Smith: A Centennial

And then on to the Fischli & Weiss exhibition.  Where the art was conceptual in a way that seems to be passe, but rang so true.  Used to be art was about making people THINK!  In music too.  It’s not just about what you see, what you hear, but where the artist is COMING FROM!  How his work fits into the world.

The absolute funniest room, the one that had me cracking up, was number three, with all its clay sculptures.  There was one of two musicians strolling down the avenue, captioned "Mick Jagger and Brian Jones going home satisfied after composing ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’".  You can see it.  Just go to:

The Tate Modern – Fischli & Weiss: Flowers & Questions. A Retrospective

and click on the picture on the upper left to enlarge it.  (Yes, "Satisfaction" was written by Jagger and Keith Richards, but was this a mistake or part of the joke?)

And there was another sculpture of a truck with effluent coming out the back entitled "The Spreading of The Manure", or something like that.

And then it was five.  And I got scared.

You see I’d visited the entry points for the upper slides.  And if you started on level four, or five, you were required to wear a hard hat.  And elbow pads.  And the tubes seemed to go straight down, scarier than any DOUBLE DIAMOND SLOPE!

But I was only alighting from the third floor.  Could I handle it?

As the line shortened and I got closer to my assignation with death, or mortal injury, I wanted to chicken out.  But a guy older than me descended.  And there were all these CHILDREN!

Well, not tots.  And kids have more pliable bodies.  And, if I passed, even though there was nobody there I knew, I’d feel the opposite of macho, I’d feel like a wimp.

They had elbow guards, but no one was wearing them.

I tried them on, but they wouldn’t go over my sweatshirt.  I figured my sweatshirt would protect me.  But how about my sunglasses, would they fly off?

And would I run into someone else on their way down?  The guard on the second floor checked the monitor, to make sure the previous rider had descended.  This woman on the third floor was checked out.  Not fully asleep like the guard at the Fischli & Weiss show, but she was thinking about her boyfriend, or dinner, she wasn’t paying ATTENTION!

Finally it was my turn.  I put down the burlap sack.  I inserted my feet.  I laid down.  And then one of the kids behind PUSHED ME!  I was flowing down the tube not fully prepared.  I hadn’t tightened up my body.  This was gonna be TROUBLE!

But the first turn was not as severe as that in the tube from the floor below.

And I’m going round and round and round.  Then suddenly, I’m at the bottom.  Safe.  I survived.

And I looked back up into space.  At the descents from the fourth and fifth floors.  Part of me wanted to go, another piece of me was happy the museum was closing.

As stated above, go to this link and have a look:

The Tate Modern – The Unilever Series: Carsten Höller

Believe it or not, the slides are FASTER than you imagine.  They put all those playground descents to shame.

And then go to:

Tate Modern’s slide show

and watch the movie halfway down the page, it’ll give you the idea.

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