08 July 2010

Harrier and Jaguar

DSC06623 - DSC06624 - SCUL-Smartblend Alternate title: How To Get Men Into Art Galleries.  Not me, mind – I’m a regular gallery-goer, but Clarkson Man tends not to be.  And Fiona Banner’s installation at the Tate Britain is one sure-fire way of convincing those men to change their ways.  Because Banner has installed two fighter jets in the Tate’s main hall.  An ex-Royal Navy Sea Harrier, which saw active service over Bosnia, is suspended by its tail from the ceiling, with its nosecone hovering just centimetres above the cool marble floor.  And an ex-RAF Jaguar, which served in Desert Storm, has been polished to a reflective sheen and lies prostrate, flipped 270 degrees to rest inelegantly on its tail and right wing.

The Jaguar attracts close attention due to its careful polishing and the racecar-like beauty of its design – I’ve long been a fan since seeing it in modern cartoon updates of the Biggles stories as a kid – and onlookers circle it repeatedly, trying to locate the best angle to admire and take photos.  But the spectacle of the hanging Harrier, which observers have likened to a game bird swinging in a poacher’s kitchen, is the most arresting.  Naturally the innards have been removed and all that remains is the fuselage, but still, this is an enormous object hanging perfectly still in the centre of the Tate.  Of course, you wish you could give it a sneaky prod to see if it swings like a pendulum.  The next best thing is crouching down below and looking back up the length of the aircraft, as if it’s plummeting directly towards you from above. 

The installation will be in place until 3 January 2011, and is free of charge.       

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[Top: Sea Harrier profile and from beneath.  Bottom: (L) Jaguar, (R) Jaguar tail with David Hockney’s ‘My Parents’, 1977.

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