A menace to life and limb’: the artworks that have injured – and killed
Source:theguardian Author:Jonathan Jones Date: 2018-08-22 Size:
Anish Kapoor’s art installation Descent Into Limbo is a big……

Mind the gap … Doris Salcedo’s Tate Modern crack. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Anish Kapoor’s art installation Descent Into Limbo is a big, black hole, too deep for viewers to be able to see the bottom. Or is it merely a black circular painting? You stand on the edge of the dark nothingness, fascinated and perhaps a little tempted to reach out a foot and test it. You could call it a meditation on the sublime. Or an accident waiting to happen.

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Descent Into Limbo was first seen in 1992, but the inevitable accident has finally come. A visitor to Kapoor’s show at the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal, had to be taken to hospital after ending up inside what is in fact a 2.5-metre-deep hole.

Anish Kapoor (left) with Descent Into Limbo.

Descent Into Limbo is one of those modern artworks that seem to menace life and limb. When Doris Salcedo cut a crack through the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London in 2007, visitors could not resist putting a foot or a leg inside. Quite a few injuries resulted from playful antics or people tripping up. When Carsten Höller installed giant spiral slides at the same museum in 2006, thousands took the plunge and a few got bruised. Far more seriously, Christo and Jeanne-Claude closed their 1991 installation, the Umbrellas, when high winds caused one of its huge beach umbrellas to crush a 33-year-old California woman to death and injure several others.

We want art to be dangerous, but not that dangerous. Or do we? It has been recognised since the Romantic age that some of the most powerful imaginative experiences derive from terror, horror and awe. The 18th-century thinker Edmund Burke called this dark aesthetic “the sublime”. He observed that real, even life-threatening, danger will always trump mere pictures of horror. Today, artists teeter over that precipice. Installation art can put us at real risk, as if we were climbing a mountain or exploring a cave.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s the Umbrellas.

Richard Serra’s steel sculptures feel the most dangerous of all. They tower over you, surround you, menace you. The danger is not illusory. Serra’s rolled steel is dangerous, especially for workers who have to install it. In 1971, a contractor called Raymond Johnson was killed during the installation of a Serra sculpture. In 1988, two workers were seriously injured while deinstalling one of his pieces.

It would be grotesque to say these incidents heighten the sublime qualities of Serra’s art, but it is true that those relentless steel walls give off a sense of deathly force, like looking at a dangerous cliff.

Luckily, the victim of Kapoor’s black hole is said to be doing well in hospital. Most injuries caused by art are, mercifully, mild. Yet something in us is drawn to the void, the precipice, the crack in the floor. If art couldn’t hurt us, it wouldn’t move us.

[Editor] 张艳

    Artintern