The flight to London was uneventful, just the usual awkwardness of strangers packed together in a small space. I managed to get my one huge bag checked all the way to Durban and put my three bags o’ technology (camera, laptop and LanTEEAL hard drive) in Left Luggage (a misleading term) and trotted off to London for the day. I went to the Tate Modern, which I’d never seen before. I’m usually not a contemporary art fan (nor very knowledgeable about art at all really) but for some reason I decided this was the one thing I wanted to see (partly because I’d already taken pictures in front of Buckingham Palace and ridden a double decker bus on my only earlier trip to London 10 years ago). It was a great museum. I liked the way they juxtaposed pieces around themes like Still Life/Object/something. I took one of the tours and saw one of the reproductions of Marchel Duchamp’s “Fountain,” which is basically a tipped over urinal. I think the discussion of what was art or not—whether someone taking a ready-made object and through a simple repositioning, calling it into question, was art made the rest of the museum and my qualms about modern art a lot easier to understand. Plus the lengths people go to is funny. Duchamp had got rid of the original after the first exhibit (which caused such furor) but then he decided to recreate it but the urinal style he’d used was no longer being produced. So he had to get it made again (at great expense—but then the reproductions are worth gazillions now anyway). A lot of it seems to be a lot of work for a point. I did see some cool abstract pieces though, like Matisse’s “The Snail,” this untidy spiral of blocks of color. And the installation in the main hall on the first floor which was a lot of polyurethane boxes all stacked into walls and mountains and mazes. It looked like sugar cube mountains or warm and really regular icebergs—this was a piece called Embankment by Rachel Whitbread. And to be shallow–“Waterlilies” was pretty—what can I say? I’m simple. Rothko’s big canvases of maroon and back rectangles and boxes were originally intended for a trendy restaurant but he pulled the commission after he decided they were going to be too depressing; he was going for oppressive and boy did he hit it. I like maroon and black (as most of you know) and don’t consider them to be naturally depressing colors but I sat there in that room with the dark grey walls and big maroon and black canvases and just felt a bit sad and disturbed. I like the collections of objects found in the riverbed at Bankside (where the Modern is located) and the site of the Tate Britain (Bankhead?). The artist had volunteers dig up stuff from the riverbed and then he categorized it all (plastic stuff, broken bottles, iron stuff) and arranged it by category in this big cabinet with all the stuff from Bankside on one side and all the stuff from the other on the reverse). I just like curio cabinet kind of things. Also there’s something to be said for obsessive collecting and categorizing. What can I say? I’m also a librarian.

Then I went to the Globe Theatre and was just a bit too late to take the last tour of the day, so I walked across the Millenium Bridge and went to St. Paul’s. Magnificent! If you’ve seen cathedrals then you know what I mean and if you haven’t go now (at least virtually, http://www.stpauls.co.uk )!

And now it’s on to Johannesburg and Durban!

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