Tate turns profit-making into art-form

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The Independent Online
ART AND science have finally come together, with mammon right in the middle.

The Tate Gallery is about to make one of its most radical breaks yet with the concept of what is art. The Tate's Duveen galleries, which used to hold Rodin's sculpture The Kiss, will from tomorrow house an assembly line making model aeroplanes.

The assembly line will manufacture rubber-band powered model aeroplanes from tissue paper, plastic and balsa wood parts. The planes will come off the production line at the rate of one every two minutes, fly up, circle and descend, to land on the gallery floor. Twenty-five thousand will be produced over the four-month run of the exhibition.

Each will be on sale to the public at pounds 5. And visitors will be free to fly them from the steps of the gallery.

The exhibition "When Robots Rule: The Two-Minute Airplane Factory" is the work of the 52-year-old American artist Chris Burden, whose aim is to demystify science.

But is it art? Most certainly, says the Tate curator Frances Morris. "At the end of the century you are free to examine the great questions without professional restraints. You can be a free spirit. And there is a dark side being explored. Aeroplanes are liberating. But they are also instruments of mass destruction. It won't take you long before a work like this begins to echo the Blitz: dozens of planes cascading from the front steps of the Tate on to the Jackson Pollock ticket-buyers."

Chris Burden says: "I want people to understand these processes. Do you know how your telephone or television works? What I really want is for this exhibition to be a real model of industrial capitalism. We have built a machine. It makes a product. We are selling the product for pounds 5. Then comes a magic moment when every plane you sell makes a profit. And that's art too. It's beautiful." He added: "Artists and scientists used to be the same people; you looked through your telescope at night and painted in the morning. An astronaut in America said recently that Nasa had made a very great error. They should have sent painters and musicians to simply look out of the window and digest what it means to go into outer space."