The Unilever Series at Tate Modern
A chronicle of some of the most innovative art in the world
If you’ve never had the chance to visit Tate Modern or are simply unfamiliar with the Turbine Hall exhibitions, then we’ll get you up to speed by saying they have been some of the most dramatic and social pieces of art seen in modern times. The Unilever Series at Tate Modern has been an annual exhibition asking artists to make use of the converted space of the old Bankside Power Station. It’s a considerable size, given that it reaches from the basement of the original Turbine Hall all the way to the ceiling, and is the first thing anyone sees as they enter the gallery.
This app collects the works from the Unilever Series as a chronicle of its achievements. Attempting to capture the essence of these works, given their variety, is a near impossible task, and as such this app doesn’t quite do that. What it does attempt to do is bring together as much media and discussion as possible so that you can at least get a flavour of them and their impact on people as they entered Tate Modern. This has greater and lesser degrees of success depending on what the original installation entailed, but for the most part we were deeply impressed with the overall effect and the depth of content made available.
There’s an impressive range of material offered here, including some never-before-seen photography, videos, interviews and essays on each work. Being able to get that sort of coverage on a single piece of art is rare from any art app, but that is perhaps the benefit of focusing on these gigantic pieces that get plenty of attention in their own right.
Insights from the artists themselves are not as common as we might have liked, but there’s enough expert opinion expressed to leave you feeling well-informed on the work you’re looking at.
While an iPad app is a great place for mixed media, it does have its shortcomings in this instance. As mentioned, these works were massive, but they were also very varied in their means of communication. Attempting to capture the feeling of them, the atmosphere in the hall, and in some cases the interaction with them, is clearly impossible. Some of the works have been as much sound or text driven as anything else and those pieces don’t work as well in this context. Having said that, video of the more interactive works, showing you a first-person view of looking at and participating in the piece, is very welcome and a pleasure to watch.
And as a piece of app design we should also give The Unilever Series some credit. As you rotate your finger around the wheel menu, the names of the artists and their pieces of work appear and you simply remove your finger to see them. From there you scroll vertically to reveal new photos, sketches and links to other media such as essays (which are more or less in PDF style) and videos. Very easy to navigate, and it doesn’t trip over itself attempting to show off all these excellent pieces of art.
As the Unilever Series winds up its run then, this is a fine collection and celebration of some of the inspiring installations that have honoured this space. While you may not be able to get a true sense of what it was like to stand in among some of it, you will at least come away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of them. In terms of execution, there doesn’t appear to us to be much more that could have been done to draw you in, and we have to say some of the photography here could stand alone as works of art in their own right. With one last exhibition to add to this collection it’s a fair achievement to have done so much to capture this series, and art lovers are bound to enjoy it. Well worth the price too.
An ambitious app that chronicles a unique collection of art exhibits.
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