Tate Modern: The interactive pool table.

The Tate Modern’s Gabriel Orozco exhibition is brilliant. I saw it yesterday.

Out of the many very, very cool works of art, there is one I feel compelled to comment on.

Carambole with Pendulum: 1996.

Gabriel Orozco’s Carambole with Pendulum 1996

The interactive round pool table in the centre of the room has a red ball swinging side to side across the middle dangled on a string from above. Two white balls and two cues are provided.

People can try to hit the tantalisingly easy-looking target as it swings across the table.

Instant smiles burst upon people’s faces as they walk in and see this. Not least because the cues are predominately taken by eager, yet frustrated, little kids squealing and desperate to show off to their parents looking on, proud and amused. A few parents help steer the kid’s cue and share the frustration.

Bu, inevitably, the challenge is too compelling for one Dad.

He breaks away from helping his 5 year old son. He’s itching to do it properly. From the way he confidently hoists his cue into his firm hand, settles into a calm position like a lioness eyeing her prey and waits that he is the pool winner when down at the pub.

He hits!

The white and red ball clack together and the red ball pendulum swings high and fast either side of the table.

The Dad looks around gleefully and proudly.

And most of us can’t help but share that feeling.

Most eyes in the room follow it. It is very enchanting, very hypnotising, and immensely satisfying.

The little kids’ enthusiasm builds up again. Stamping feet and eager jumps ensue. They are convinced it’s as easy as it looks.

And a playground politeness is revealed in the human nature present: When the cues are free on the table, adults look around almost guiltily to check that no kids want a go first.

One Mum comments to her child, “It makes your eyes go a bit funny, the bright green and red together. It’s like that eye test you have when the optician asks you which one you see more, isn’t it?”

The colour is certainly striking. It drowns out the subdued pictures on the surrounding walls. It’s so bright because 9 bulbs are blaring full force down on it. The red ball is shimmering with shiny light.

Every time someone new picks up a cue there is an evident feeling of power and excitement on their face. Their claim to this special cue. For this one, special purpose.

It’s so imaginative. Such a surprisingly simple way to bring joy to people instantly.

I gush, and yet it inspires so much thought on art’s potential.

The prominent elements of frustration involved in this game make it all the more bittersweet and addictive. Who would have thought a work of art would be more addictive than gambling?

And the interaction creates an atmosphere of an electric charge of immediate excitement. The feeling of being here , and not behind a screen looking at Google Art, is hard to provoke in minds crowded with a huge tide of information, social media, and startling breaking news.

And it’s achieved. It’s almost tangible. It’s wonderful.

“I like the Tate Modern because I like the pictures.”

“It’s awesome, what a great idea.” Adam says. I urge him to have a go. He hits it mid-swing and stops it. In that moment, something mundane is suddenly preciously unique.

“I like this game.”

And so, I am surprised when Amy says she doesn’t like it. I am intrigued.

“It’s a bit superfluous,” she says. “I don’t come here to play games like that.”

But why not? “See, Adam says he’d rather have a real pool table in his house than this one, so what’s the point?”

Ah. Perhaps questioning the point of the artwork is the sign of a good one…?

“It made me feel scared and embarrassed,” she said, provoking Adam to quip, “Amy doesn’t like enthusiasm in art or in anything.”

Of course, anyone who knows Amy will know that’s not true.

“Maybe it’s because I want to play but I can’t because I’m too shy? Or I’m too cool and I can’t let people ruin my street cred?”

Lols aside (Amy’s funny), it is interesting, isn’t it?

The classic dilemmas of human nature have burst forth with such clarity at this humble pool table.

Served up: A fresh slice of the leek.


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