Sunday, 12 April 2009

My eventful trip to The Baltic

Today I went to Newcastle, for no particular reason, other than that we were bored so we decided to go to the Sage and the Baltic just to see what was there because I'd never been. First: The Baltic. (There are no photos because cameras are prohibited; probably so that people can't see how crap it is before they go in.)

The Baltic is an old converted flour mill that is now a modern 'art' gallery. We went into the big wooden door thing, low ceilings as we went in, gift shop to my left, right in front of us was a large 'structure' of cardboard boxes, with tape measures stuck to them, and two record players playing classical music with hanging lightbulbs rubbing against the spinning record. From here I thought: 'This is going to be weird.' It only got worse. We went past the main reception desk and got the lift up to the 7th floor, (the 8th was closed to the public for some reason.) where the exhibition was something to do with riots. There was a wooden box with a brick, glass bottle and a piece of wood with nails in it in some kind of protective sponge lining. We then went past there and looked over a balcony to what was on floor 6. It looked like a pile of string with paperclips around it.
We left that area, and instead of taking the lift down one floor, we went to the stairs. The stairs were the only good part of this gallery, despite them being very creepy. On each flat section of the square-spiral staircase, there was a record player, giving out all kinds of hideous frequencies, like people screaming, air raid sirens played slowly, running footsteps and the kind of noise you would get if you dragged a sheet of metal across a wooden floor. There was a different record player on each level, and each was giving out a different noise, so a different 'total sound' was given depending on what level you were on. Altogether it sounded like something that was a mix between the strangest, most dissonant tracks on Selected Ambient Works Vol. II by Aphex Twin, and the noise heard when you put your head underwater in a swimming pool.
Level 6 was exactly how I saw it: A pile of string with sheets of paper around it. There was a guy standing at the entrance, and he was in charge of some yellow tape and he would only let a certain amount of people in before he close it again like some sort of crime scene. I had a look in and saw people admiring a pile of blank A4 paper.
Level 5 was where I lost it. This floor was dedicated to the 'Genius of Darwin', and was basically a collection of old-style suitcases and butterfly nets that he would have taken with him on his trips. There was a window full of compost that was called a 'worm farm' and a TV of a woman lying in some water surrounded by jellyfish. There was a second TV with some people examining rocks, with no sound other than trees rustling and water running. All the time that I was on this floor, I could hear some kind of weird grunting noise every 10 seconds or so. I went to see what it was and I went to some little cinema area to find a huge projection of two tortoises mating. That is not art. I got the giggles and had to find somewhere where a) I couldn't hear the awful stair-sounds, and b) I couldn't hear the tortoises. I went and watched the ambient-forest noise TV. I tried to go back in after this, and saw a upright log standing in the middle of a room while people  admired it's artistic merit.
Level 4 was nothing, so we gave it a skip and went to level 3. That turned out to be nothing but a stupid musical about pirates from Newcastle. I didn't watch it. 
Level 2 was some huge pile of polystyrene bricks and jenga models that I just wanted to kick. Back down to level 1 and had a look in the gift shop. It was like being in Tokyo. Rubbish, cheap wastes of plastic everywhere. Everything was Hello Kitty or hideously coloured to make it hypnotic if you moved your head too quickly while looking at it. 
I didn't buy anything and left quickly to go to the Sage, which was about 50 metres away.

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