Notes from Migrations at the Tate Britain

Notes on a few things that caught my engineer’s eye at the Migrations exhibition at the Tate Britain today.

‘Quickly Away Thanks to Pneumatic Doors’ and ‘Soon in the Train by Escalator’, both by László Maholy-Nagy, 1937 are two eye-catching information posters that explain how new technologies will work to improve passenger journeys. The posters are clear, without being patronising. It makes me wonder why we don’t do the same now to explain the engineering that is being employed to build the latest additions to the Tube. Right now in London, we have one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the capital underway, Crossrail, and yet the project feels hidden rather than celebrated. More public civil engineering information posters please – I am sure they would be avidly read by young and old.

I saw for the first time work by Rasheed Araeen, a civil engineer-come-sculptor particularly interested in working with industrial materials. (I particularly liked his sketches of sculptures done on BP calculation paper). It struck me that sculpture is a great way to learn about materials, their properties and how to work with them. I will definitely find out more about Araeen’s work.

‘Mr Collins from the ARP’, Peter Peri, 193? – this larger than life bust is made from concrete. Peri chose the material because it is a cheap, durable and colourful medium for public sculpture. Close up the sculpture looks like dense foam, but it is also strangely untactile. Makes me think of that Parisisn pioneer of landscape gardening Monsieur Alphand, chief engineer to Hausmann and creator of the artificial logs sculpted from concrete that line the pathways at the Buttes de Chaumon Park.

Cloud Canyons No. 3 – An ensemble of bubble machines, by David Madalla. This sculpture consists of a series of perpex tubes up which bubbles are pushed, emerging to form towers that collapse under their own weight, dripping to the ground to be collected and repumped back to the top. It looked quite a lot like my fourth year chemistry project!