Tuesday 9 January 2018

Tate Britain and Marguerite Humeau

On our way to Tate Britain last week we walked along the Embankment for a while

and eventually arrived at the Vauxhall Cross Building, home to the Secret Intelligence Service, built by Terry Farrell, architect, and completed in 1994. Farrell's design was influenced by 1930s industrial modernist architecture and Mayan and Aztec religious temples.

It was a pleasure visiting Tate Britain as we had not been there for a while.

The circular balcony of the rotunda's domed atrium is right by the entrance

The dome above allows lots of light to pour in giving the whole area a bright and airy feel.

Looking down at the magnificent spiral staircase

A closer look at the steps

Echoes by Marguerite Humeau

Humeau's installation was conceived as a confrontation between life and death. It's a part temple, part laboratory for the industrial production of an elixir for eternal life. The lines between research, fiction science and myth are blurred creating a unique sensory experience. 

The sculptures are inspired by ancient Egyptian goddesses and sacred animals, taking their names from Wadjet, the protector king, who was represented as a cobra, and Taweret, the protector of fertility, depicted as a woman with a hippopotamus head and a crocodile tail. Set against walls painted with a colour devised from the powerful venom of the black mamba snake, the sculptural forms contain fluids that embody poison and cure.

Through her research, Humeau discovered that hippopotamus milk contains natural antibiotics and that alligator blood is resistant to a number of viruses, including HIV, prompting scientists to nickname it Muhammad Ali due to its strength.

Humeau draws on the power of these natural 'super fluids', pumping liquids across the gallery to create a substance potentially capable of healing any disease.

Reverberating in the space is the resurrected voice of ancient Egypt queen Cleopatra, produced in collaboration with experts such as historians, surgeons and translators. The voice sings a love song from Cleopatra's era in the nine languages that she spoke, including Median, Arabic and Persian.

By comparing ancient Egypt and the present day, Humeau explores myth-making and reveals a shared desire for immortality despite its possible dangers. Humeau bridges the gaps in scientific knowledge with elements of storytelling and imagination reflecting on our own future as hybrid creatures.

Before leaving we stopped for some lunch at the Members' Room. The 14 metre-long mirrored bar was inspired by Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergere.


The members' area covers the whole of the circular balcony of the rotunda's domed atrium, and is full of nooks, crannies, domes and busts.

It's a very comfortable place to sit, and one can choose to sit in the asymmetric armchairs by Edwin Lutyens.

Another point of interest are the double-ended spoons by Nicole Wermers

 The views of the circular balcony are delightful

Looking down from the balcony one can see the new circular marble staircase in the rotunda, scalloped with Art Deco patterns which recall the Tate's original marble mosaic floor

Next to, and part of the Members' Room, is the salon, which was empty when we visited.

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