02 April 2009

TH.2058 @ The Tate Modern: Using Typography And Color To Set Mood And Expectation

2011.I've been investigating how color influences mood, and I've made no secret about my love and appreciation for type, which also influences mood and expectations using appeals to style.

Recently (via IO9.com, if memory serves me correctly) I learnt of an unusually, delightfully dark and twisted exhibition at Britains Tate Modern museum of art. There, artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has mounted, in the Turbine Hall, an installation called TH.2058.

Apparently inspired in large part by SF and disaster tales (I also sense something of the British "cosy catastrophe" here) the Turbine Hall has been turned into a shelter complete with 200 bunk beds, a place where the inhabitants of the world 50 years from now can come for relief from a catastrophic realignment of climate:

It rains incessantly in London – not a day, not an hour without rain, a deluge that has now lasted for years and changed the way people travel, their clothes, leisure activities, imagination and desires. They dream about infinitely dry deserts.

This continual watering has had a strange effect on urban sculptures. As well as erosion and rust, they have started to grow like giant, thirsty tropical plants, to become even more monumental. In order to hold this organic growth in check, it has been decided to store them in the Turbine Hall, surrounded by hundreds of bunks that shelter – day and night – refugees from the rain.

The bunks are strewn with books by Vonnegut, Dick, and Ballard, treated to resist the mouldering that the high humidity will perforce require to have happen.

The SF novel metaphor, for me, been realized in the type, color palette, and vision for the printed and web materials. The view, when surfing into the place, is confronted with this:

The type, with its utter artificial geometry, speaks to me of the covers of "cerebral" SF paperback or independent, small-budget films (all the more ironic given the name "UniLever", but there you go about juxtaposition). The yellow of the type and the muted blues, something that looks like a strip taken out of a photo of the exhibition, becomes something of a abstract, like the ones on all those paperback SF novels out of the 60s and 70s.

The place the metaphor really gets realized is in the posters:

...the design of which I regact to much like some of the covers of some of the handful of British imported SF paperbacks I happen to own.

You may have your own opinion on whether or not the artist (if you surfed the link to the exhibit's web page) succeeded at evoking a wrecked enviroment of 50 years hence, but I think the SF-novel vibe has been transmitted forward admirable.

Just the right type and palette, and you have a mood and an atmosphere.

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