To celebrate the opening of the new extension to Tate Modern in London this month film production company House of Greenland and digital agency Phantom have collaborated with Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós to create a new video artwork. “Tate wanted to create an interactive video before the opening of the new building,” says House of Greenland founder Martin de Fleurian. “The fact that Tate was built in a powerplant and now rises towards the sky like a sort of temple dedicated to art seemed like a great source of inspiration to us.”
The set of four videos, titled States of Matter, is presented in a bespoke user interface that allows the viewer to activate and deactivate the parts of the film and soundtrack they want to watch and hear – each film can be viewed individually or in combination with any other. The soundtrack, composed by Orri Páll Dýrason and Georg Hólm from Sigur Rós, has been divided into four tracks that work alone or in conjunction with each other.
“We decided to use the opportunity of the opening to showcase the new building. We wanted to explore themes related to the role of museums, the meaning of art, and the contribution of some of the communities (builders, artists and visitors) involved in making Tate Modern what it is,” says Raphaelle. “We decided to make the experience abstract and experimental, thereby allowing the viewers to derive their own meaning from it.”
The artistic concept was developed by House of Greenland who wanted to explore the history of the building and its change of use: “That industrial place which used to flow pure energy (oil) is now flowing with spiritual, artistic energy.” Each video thread represents a different state of matter (liquid, solid, air and plasma) and each state has been prescribed a part of the building: the exterior shell of the building, filmed with a drone, is plasma; the upper floor of the new switch house is air; the Turbine Hall, “the foundations of the museum” is solid; and liquid was filmed in the drum room of the former oil tanks. The combination of these metaphorical tropes play out the concept as the viewer dictates.
Each video explores the building at different scales and exposes details that might be overlooked in the building once the art is installed. The CGI applied to the scenes coupled with the eerie and slow moving narrative of the films creates an unsettling atmosphere throughout the work, heightening the anticipation before the building opens.