Shibboleth 2007

Sculptor Doris Salcedo has unveiled a hole at the Tate Modern – the latest installation in the art gallery’s Turbine Hall.

The work, entitled Shibboleth 2007, runs the full 167 metres of the cavernous hall on London’s South Bank.  It begins as a crack then widens and deepens as it snakes across the room.  Colombian artist Salcedo said the work symbolised racial hatred and division in society.

“I always try to relate my work to tragedy,” she said.
And I know that many of the rest of us will do the same.

In trying to comprehend this interesting piece, it is important to understand the title.  Shibboleth is Hebrew for ‘stream of water’ but it has come to describe an arbitrary test or custom that distinguishes one group from another.

For example, one group who understand why a crack and hole in the floor of the Tate Modern is art but a crack and hole in the street outside my house is ‘essential maintenance.’

And a second group who don’t understand it and have no intention of setting foot in the Tate Modern, especially now that there is an additional Health and Safety hazard to contend with.

Salcedo claims that the work took her over a year to make and apparently spent the past five weeks installing it in the Tate, but she refused to reveal how it was achieved.
“What is important is the meaning of the piece.  The making of it is not important,” she said, adding that the work was “bottomless… deep as humanity”.

I disagree there.  I think the making of it is very important.  What was the hole in originally and how do you pick up a hole that you have made, carry it somewhere else and ‘install’ it?
Also, if it is bottomless, surely there must be a corresponding hole in Australia, China or somewhere?
Perhaps that’s what she’s done, perhaps there’s an identical installation in the Sydney Museum of Modern Art and if you drop a fruit gum or a pencil into the hole in the Tate it pops out in Sydney and frightens the night watchman.

It needs testing.
Next time you’re passing the Tate pop in there and stuff something down their hole. I’d volunteer but my life has enough holes in it already.



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