Exhibitions: Darkness falls on the Tate St Ives

As Dark as Light St Ives International Turner Prize shortlist

It is difficult to know what to make of a show which is at once as well-intentioned and as frankly awful as the Tate Gallery St Ives's contribution to "As Dark as Light", the multi-site exhibition organised by St Ives International. The good intentions are easy enough to see. Thousands of eclipse-chasers are expected to descend on Cornwall on 11 August, intent on experiencing their own minute and a half of darkness at noon. Not unreasonably, the Tate has seen this as a quite literally heaven-sent opportunity to lure extra punters through its doors by organising a heliocentric show. They have also hit upon the entirely reasonable wheeze of taking as this show's motif the interplay of dark and light, a common theme of both the visual arts and of solar eclipses.

So far so good. The only problem is with the show itself, or at least with significant parts of it. Walk into the Tate's upper galleries and you will find yourself assailed by the ever less heady smell of rotting carrots, part of an installation by the Georgian artist Gia Edzgveradze called Situated in the Eclipse (Do you mind it honey?) Dark and light being something of a double act, Edzgveradze takes duality as his theme: his installation consists of two rooms, one light and one dark, each with its floor subdivided into a checkerboard of alternating dark and light squares. The dark squares in the first room consist of carrots, prettily arranged in shallow mounds; Edzgveradze has made his light squares by repeatedly painting the word "hopes" in cursive script on the gallery floor. On one wall, a projector casts a moving image of the unclothed artist doing a vigorous breast stroke on his bedroom carpet while quacking the word "free"; on another is projected a slide of Edzgveradze, naked and on all fours, with a carrot in his mouth and another up his bottom. In the second room, the floor-squares are, in turn, growing grass and highly polished metal. One wall bears a painted tableau of ping-pong players - table tennis being "binary, duality, a sign of vitality itself" according to the artist - while the room is topped by a frieze of gnomic inscriptions along the lines of "What's matter, honey?" and "Don't take it serious, honey."

You cannot help but agree with the latter exhortation, for Situated in the Eclipse is as big a pile of tosh as you are likely to find this side of Penzance. Talk to Edzgveradze and he will explain to you how carrots grow in darkness and grass in the light; how the journey from room 4 to room 5 is thus an allegory of the journey of the human soul, and so on. Carrots, adds one Tate curator, grasping at exegetic straws, also help people to see in the dark. As the carrots rot and the grass grows, so the polarities between dark and light will become ever more apparent to the eye (not to say the nose). And so on and so on.

If a piece of conceptual art is to work, then it has to do at least one of two things. Either, like an abstract painting or a piece of music, it must carry some kind of inarticulable numinous charge; or, like a code or puzzle, it must engage the viewer on an intellectual and acrostic level. I know that Situated in the Eclipse is trying to say some bleak, Godot- ish thing about, oh, let's say the triumphant pathos of the human condition; but frankly, its message is lost in the embarrassment of reading it. The work is simply too heavy-handed in its conception, too laboured in its metaphors. Given that Edzgveradze has not merely been chosen to exhibit in the Tate but to represent his country at this year's Venice Biennale, the message which Situated in the Eclipse conveys all too clearly is of the occasionally woeful state of contemporary curatorship. The real sadness is that many of the holiday-makers who visit "As Dark as Light" over the summer will be the kind of people who have been raised on bogey-man stories of Carl Andre's bricks. They are likely to leave St Ives with their anti-Tate prejudices firmly intact.

Still, there are reasons to visit Cornwall over the summer. Some other participants in the Tate's show vary from the polite to the possibly good. Yuko Shiraishi's Judd-like installations of sculptural paintings, Eclipse and Blue Deference, are hardly likely to set Porthmeor Beach alight, but the former work - a gradated series of black-edged yellow boxes - is at least pleasant to look at, and the thought of its transformation at the moment of total solar darkness on 11 August is intriguing.

Gill Clarke's apocalyptic dance piece, Partial sitings: full view, made highly effective use of both the Tate's architecture and of the tension between individual and choreographed expression. Each of her dancers spun and whirled through the gallery in a movement that was at once entirely self-enclosed and part of a greater whole: a neat enough analogy for the music of the spheres, and one that the piece did not labour.

But the real reason for visiting St Ives International is to be found later in the summer at Newlyn. There, the American skyspace artist James Turrell will install an observatory-cum-light-sculpture called Arcus and another eclipse-specific work overlooking St Michael's Mount. Sightings of Turrell's work in Britain are about as rare and uncanny as solar eclipses; whatever your feelings about the latter, Turrell is definitely worth the journey.

Call it coincidence, but the number of shortlisted artists using film in their work has grown dramatically since Channel 4 took over sponsorship of the Tate Gallery's Turner Prize nine years ago. Last year, two of the finalists submitted video installations. This year's shortlist, announced last week, includes three artists who work with film: four if you count the endlessly autobiographical Tracey Emin, who uses photography in her mixed media constructions. The other three are Steve McQueen, whose film Deadpan, was shown at the ICA earlier this year; Steven Pippin, best known for his photographs of laundrettes; and identical twins Jane and Louise Wilson, whose four-screen video Gamma was shot at Greenham Common. One of the prize's jurors suggested that "including a painter in the shortlist just for the sake of it would have belittled their work", another that "the question of medium has become less important" - just so as long as it is film, apparently. And although the Turner Prize rewards British contributions to the art scene, it is less and less the art scene in Britain: Emin's major 1998 show was in Tokyo; Pippin's in San Francisco, and McQueen, for his part, has moved to Amsterdam.

'As Dark as Light': St Ives International (01736 333 0240) to 31 Oct; note: Tate St Ives' shows end on different dates (01736 796 226). Turner Prize exhibition: Tate Gallery, SW1 (0171 887 8000) 20 Oct to 23 Jan 2000

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past