Dating back to early cinema, phantom rides were films shot by cameramen literally strapped to the very front of a moving train. These short films gave audiences the dramatic sense of speeding through scenery, passing through tunnels and floating above an approaching track chasing the horizon as if on an invisible vehicle. This week Simon Starling’s ambitious new project for Tate Britain’s vast Duveen Galleries space is unveiled.
On a large projection screen suspended in the darkened galleries and surrounded by a haunting soundtrack, Starling invites you on a phantom ride that maps the history of the Duveen Galleries. From damage caused by the Blitz to landmark exhibitions, art works have been restaged and filmed in their original locations. Blending real objects with computer generated works Starling collapses time and space through the gripping flow of images of trauma, conflict and war.
Stretching over 300 feet the Duveen Sculpture Galleries opened to the public in 1937. The two long galleries with high, barrel–vaulted ceilings were the first public galleries in England designed specifically for the display of sculpture. Starling says of his Tate Britain Commission Phantom Ride made specifically for the space:
To experience the Duveen Galleries is to experience a series of dislocations. We find ourselves in a street of sorts, an arcade perhaps? The street that we took to get here is now very much elsewhere. Now, within the galleries’ bombastic stone walls, time and space as we understand them are temporarily suspended… We are thrown around, like the sound of our footsteps, from doorway to doorway, between then and now, between past and present: contemporary art to the Pre-Raphaelites, mid–century modernism to neoclassicism, from chiselled stone to moving image.
See the Tate Britain Commission 2013 Phantom Ride by Simon Starling from 12 March until 20 October 2013.