Young Journalist Reports On Tate's Global Cities

By Rhiannon Lingwood | 20 June 2007
a dark photograph showing a great expanse of black sky with the lights of the city stretched out below

Andreas Gursky, Los Angeles 1999. © Monika Spruth Philomene Magers

24 Hour Museum's year 10 work experience reporter Rhiannon Lingwood gives her view of the new exhibition, Global Cities, in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall until August 27 2007.

Global Cities is Tate Modern’s second major exhibit concentrating on architecture, the city itself and other aspects of city life. It uses a wide range of media to address several different issues within ten cities focusing on the contrast between London and other major cities around the world in 2007.

The cities span from Istanbul to Mumbai and as far as Brazil’s São Paulo, looking at their Size, Speed, Density, Diversity and Form and the impact these factors will have on us in the near future.

Clear, hard-hitting statistics are displayed prominently across the gallery reminding me that it will be my generation that has to live with the consequences of our present actions.

By 2050 75 per cent of the human population will be living in major cities, one and a half times what the figure is now, although Western Europe is supposedly slowing its growth compared to the rapid development of Africa, India and parts of Asia.

The first two factors, Size and Speed, refer to the growth of the cities themselves and their population. For example: in Lagos the city has 40 new arrivals every hour compared to London’s six.

A computerised image of the Thames Gateway as an Urban Field.

Zaha Hadid, The Thames Gateway as an Urban Field. © Zaha Hadid Architects

The section on Size was complemented by Neil Coates’ ironic artistic impression of London’s new developments, including the 2012 Olympic expansion. He had used a number of everyday objects such as biscuits, razorblades and toy animals to get his point across.

One of my favourite works was a film by Osman Bozkurt called Auto-Park/The Highway Parks of Istanbul. It shows Istanbul citizens’ desperation for open and green spaces, within the 18th fastest growing city in the world. Istanbul communities in the 21st century are so lacking green spaces they now use any free area they can get, including roundabouts and motorway verges.

The Form section of the exhibition looks at the layout and construction of cities themselves and the major differences between those urban areas. This was well portrayed through a series of photographs by Laurence Bonvin.

These images of half of the featured cities were distant bird’s eye view shots of the city plan below; the photos show the differences in landscape, green space and over-crowding across the world’s large cities.

A shot of a new developement with the backdrop of the inner city skyline.

Laurence Bonvin, On the Edges of Paradise. © Laurence Bonvin

Density, the next section, naturally follows on; it’s a key component in the future of city expansion. Modern architects have to revolve plans around ensuring buildings are compatible with many cities’ high-density populations. Sustainable designs need to successfully house people in a world where one in three of city dwellers are living in slums.

The representation of densely populated city areas is shown through timber models built where higher density areas are represented by higher points on the sculpture. When looking at the sculpture I thought it was an effective way of displaying what could have been a complicated concept.

Diversity was the final topic area and the one I most enjoyed, as I believed it focused on aspects of society associated with community, or the lack of it. Still and moving images were highly effective in depicting our cities and many of the social issues within them. Diversity is a word covering many of the fascinating social factors of modern urban society like race, religion and sexuality.

Particularly enjoyable was Reveal, a video filmed by Dryden Goodwin concentrating on beliefs that are flawed and misunderstood. The concept was that as you listened to the conversation of the artist and his muse the camera watches as the picture takes form.

The conversation continues and you realise the muse is someone polite, reasonably intelligent and chatty; as the illustration continues you begin to realise that the image drawn is of someone society would typically believe to be a thug.

a photograph of a cityscape with neon signs

Francesco Jodice, Aerial view, Tokyo. © Francesco Jodice

Some parts of the exhibition were of a lot more interest than others as, in my opinion, videos such as Let’s Puff and Railings were partially pointless ‘representational’ art compared to the more factual statistics and relevant artwork.

This exhibition overall was highly interesting and topical, although I felt that if you took away the art it could easily be an exhibition more suited to the Science Museum.

The exhibition had a continually running social and communal theme. Every topic was linked to the concept that we, as a community, have to tackle to secure our planet’s future.

The exhibition had emphasis around London, and these themes are certainly very relevant to the rapidly changing city. Exhibitions like Global Cities and projects like Debate London hope to encourage and bring awareness to the public about aspects concerning our earth and cities.

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