I went over to the Wellcome Collection recently to see the new display of neuro-related tools, paraphernalia and artifacts. There's been some hype around the show and from the huge presence of tourists and art students, it was obviously marketed at quite a specific crowd. In fact, the art student and tourist presence was so heavy that it was nigh-on impossible to see most of the things on display. When one could get close to an ancient trepanning tool or a slice of Einsteins brain it was essentially a rather dull affair: 'Here is a slice of brain.' Oh yeah?
It's not like you're supposed to expect in-depth analysis and inspired curatorial work at the Wellcome - it is essentially a depository of obscure medical objects and their stock in trade is letting you look at them. Which was exactly what the exhibition was, with little in the way of history or explanation and an apparent random arrangement of the various tools that attract coos and awe from the assembled tourist and art student population. If you already know about brains and their history then there's nothing new here, though the tumblr set up for the exhibition has some wonderful imagery.
What a relief then, after spending two hours or so tactically attempting to navigate around the London Marathon when I managed to eventually find my way into Tate Britain for the Robinson Institute from Patrick Keiller.
In a stark contrast to the Wellcome, the Tate commission from Keiller is beautifully laid out, full of space with a methodical step from each section to the next. Which is essentially the whole point of the show. Keiller pulls strands of economic and political history through hundreds of year of British history and geography to weave stories that are often impossible to guess at, sometimes humorous and other time profound. The Guardian have done a lot better piece on it than I could, so I won't go on about it. It is deep and involving if nothing else. The raw array of artistic and design aesthetics laid out - from etchings to charts and books, pieces of rock and stark photography drag you into the mystery that Robinson is unraveling. The whole story reminds me heavily of Perec's A Void or Cesare's Invention of Morel in the mystery and other-worldliness of the familiar landscape.