Future improbable

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Via Ghost of a Flea comes this headscratcher of a series of… something, at the Tate art museum in London (where else? Here’s an example of Tate weirdness: an artist who places tires on a floor or shower rods in a wall and gets an exhibit, and presumably lots of money). Anyway, they’ve got this upcoming thing about London in 2058, which they describe will be in this state:

Incessant rain is plaguing London, changing its landscape and forcing its inhabitants to seek shelter within Tate Modern, amongst monumentally large sculptures swollen by the rainfall, fragmentary film projections and books, rescued from the rain.

Erm. How does “incessant rain” describe a state any different from the London of today, or of the past? I know they have come out of a warm, dry weather phase (which in typical Anglo-Saxon insularity greeny activists in that land decided meant the whole world was doomed to the horror of warm, pleasant weather with a longer growing period) but pick up any classic tome about Britain and eventually you will come to a description of London containing the words “gloom,” “fog,” “pea-soup fog,” “rain,” “wet,” “damp,” “dank,” “rainy,” “drizzle,” “mist,” “wet,” “puddle,” “mud,” “rubbers” (not the male naughty bits protector but things you wear on your feet to protect them from mud and wet), “mac” (short for “macintosh,” a kind of raincoat), and any of the colloquial terms for “umbrella” (“brolly” was a common one).

That could be explained, I suppose, by the short cultural memories of the people involved, or perhaps they were raised in a windowless attic and not let out unless the weather was sunny and dry (which meant maybe once or twice a year, which is why they are so afraid of the weather). But that doesn’t explain the whole rest of the description. Let’s take those “sculptures swollen by the rainfall.” What kind of sculptures are these? What are they made of? From what I’ve seen in my life, sculptures are usually made of stone, plaster, metal, or some kind of plastic like resin. Plastic would probably hold up best in the rain, but it would not be “swollen” by it. Stone does not swell from “incessant” water running over it — it eventually wears away, as do things made of plaster. Which means they would get smaller, the opposite of “swollen.” Metal, unless protected, corrodes and rusts — there might be some “swollen” appearance in certain parts of the metal due to the effects of the corrosion, but eventually the object would wear away and crumble. What are these “sculptures” made of? I know of no substance that isn’t actually alive that swells in the rain. Are the sculptures made out of live fungi?

And why do “fragmentary film projections and books” need to be “rescued from the rain”? These things are not normally stored outside where they’d be exposed to the elements. Perhaps the people putting this exhibit together meant to say that London was being flooded by the Thames, which has been known to happen — it isn’t all that unusual an occurrence. That would make more sense when it came to the need to “rescue” books and film bits and whatever. So why didn’t they just say so? They probably wanted to make everything sound mysterious and profound (“ooh! the scary future full of doom!”), and “unusually long and heavy rains in the future cause London to be flooded, discuss” doesn’t sound as interesting.

2 Responses to “Future improbable”

  1. aelfheld Says:

    Origami would swell, but origami requires talent – something that would make it ineligible for consideration by the Tate.

  2. Andrea Harris Says:

    How about an origami that represents a piece of crumpled up paper? I can make those — I have a wastebasket full of them!

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