An Exhibition Visit: The Asset Strippers
An Exhibition Visit : Tate Britain
The Asset Strippers, Mike Nelson
We didn’t go to Tate Britain to see The Asset Strippers installation, we went to see the Don McCullin exhibition*. We walked through Mike Nelson’s installation by accident as we passed the length of the gallery on our way to the Don McCullin. But we found ourselves slowing down, taking it in and stopping in our tracks.
An incredible collection of machinery ghosts, dusty and redundant, quiet and sad. Yet, displayed as they are, elevated on plinths under the towering glazed arched roof in the Duveen Galeries’ in Tate Britain these symbols of past industrial power and might are made somehow beautiful, objects of worth.
Mike Nelson’s intention the installation is to “…presents us with a vision of artefacts cannibalised from the last days of the industrial era in place of the treasures of empire that would normally adorn such halls.”
There’s a definite solidity and quality to the machinery. This equipment was fit for purpose. Or used to be. The march of technology (not a bad thing) has left these solid hulks behind.
The curatorial decision to leave the auctioneers stickers in place, the masses of dust glued to the oily residue on the cogs and chains and the glitter and sequin debris left exactly as found, rather than cleaning and shining the old equipment, is a master stroke. It adds a haunting sense of the people that have gone as well as the age they worked in. It’s a strange and unexpected feeling, perhaps a generational one, I don’t know?
*The Don McCullin exhibition was worth every second of our time but, it is devastating and hard to see and utterly utterly exhausting. Don McCullin does not spare you from the human capacity for cruelty. He printed every single one of the pictures in the exhibition himself as a mark of respect to the subjects his images capture - each time trying to better the last print.