Doris Salcedo Shibboleth Tate Modern Turbine Hall
There can be few more challenging spaces for an artist to be commissioned to produce work for than the Turbine Hall entrance of the Tate modern Gallery in London.
From Rachel Whiteread’s Embankment to Bruce Nauman’s Raw Materials and Carson Holler’s Test Site (the slides) success has been variable.
The Tates 8th commissioned artist was the Columbian sculptor Doris Salcedo
When Salcedo’s Shibboleth was unveiled it wasn’t the meaning of the work that seemed to trouble and baffle the public and critics alike, interpretations ranging from a comment on the art world, humanities consciousness and racism and the divided world but how the 548ft (167metres) crack in the solid concrete turbine hall was created. The crack starts with a very fine and small hairline fissure and gradually widens into a 3ft crevasse. Suggestions ranged from a fake painted optical illusion to an actual crack in the floor which had been worsened to create the work. In the end the Guardian newspaper decided to investigate and interviewed a construction worker who was working on another project at the Tate. I’ll leave the description to the builder, only identified as Mr E:
‘They dug a dirty great trench about a yard deep and a yard wide and then they brought in lorry load after lorry load of cement and poured it in, using 10ft sections of what looked liked carved polystyrene moulding to form the sides. Then a whole bunch of people lay on their stomachs for about a week and finished it off with brushes.
When it was pointed out to Mr E that the trench was about racism he replied, ‘Its about racism, can’t see it myself, but it was a pretty good trench’