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November 19, 2007

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Notes on London

Jotted in the hotel notebook:

  • The British Museum has neat stuff, but honestly, if it’s a cloudy day, the main attraction is the atrium, which is the closest simulation I have yet found of the underworld. The sterile air… the ghastly, formless chalk-white light… the long, loitering lines… the babel of languages… it’s spooky and depressing in a not-unenjoyable way.
  • You could spend an entire day just soaking up street names in London. I guess it’s all just set so deeply into our literature and culture; everything resonates in your ears and on your lips, even if you don’t know why. Tottenham Court? Charing Cross? Hampstead Heath? Clearly there are wizards in all of those places.
  • The London Underground is instantly navigable. The stations sort of hold your hand. (And they too have wizard names.)
  • The Tate Modern used to be a power plant, and its cavernous main room — the Turbine Hall! — is devoted to commissioned installations. Apparently for artists it’s quite a challenge because the space is just so big. The artist Doris Salcedo came up with a brilliant solution, on display when I was there: No sculpture. Instead, she carved a giant, seismic crack into the floor. Pictures don’t really do it justice; in my mind, the real work of art isn’t the crack at all (though it’s beautiful) but rather the inescapable thought: “She actually broke open the floor? They let her do this? She wrecked the museum!” It feels totally transgressive — and, therefore, awesome.
  • Leading to and from the Tate Modern there’s a pedestrian-only bridge across the Thames. It’s pretty thrilling.
  • Oh hey, and: I tried meta-free travel this time. That is, I took no camera, and took no pictures. Recommended!

Posted November 19, 2007 at 8:51 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


"Clearly there are wizards in all of those places." Clearly the most enjoyable thing I've read all day. Nicely done :)

tooootally agree with you on the street names. i was so astonished that my flat was just blocks away from Drury Lane. like, Drury Lane actually exists?? clearly there are muffin men there.

I've found your blog for the first time and saw that you'd recently been to London. The Tate was incredible and an absolute awakening when I went in 2004. It was just after the Turner Prize had been given and there was also an installation by The Chapman Brothers that shook the sensibilities of a lot of people.

Posted by: Patrick Sloan on November 27, 2007 at 11:57 AM
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