‘Wetin You Go Do?’

I recently visited Otobong Nkanga’s piece ‘Wetin You Go Do?’ in the Tanks at Tate Modern. The piece consisted of a number of concrete balls which were placed carefully in clusters around the tanks and had large heavy ropes connecting them all. The work had 3 speaker embedded in 3 spheres which discussed the difficulties of life along side more abstracted streams of consciousness.

‘Wetin You Go Do?’
Otobong Nkanga
Photograph of Tate Tank Exhibition by Ruth Linnell
‘Wetin You Go Do?’ Otobong Nkanga Photograph of Tate Tank Exhibition by Ruth Linnell

I found walking around the work my eyes were constantly traveling between different clusters of spheres. The curation of the piece took full advantage of the space and integrated itself within the setting as if the concrete were a part of the location. The work really reminded me of boys which are found in the ocean, with the whole location having a rather aquatic feel. Being contained within a space which echos with a tinny sound and surrounded by ropes, I viewed the piece as a life line. The boys were collections of objects which a safe.

I was interested by why Nkanga had chosen simple spheres to be representational of people. He clustered the spheres in social groups- reflecting how people network within society. Whilst this work had a specific meaning behind it and I could see that the spheres could be representational of a life, I read the work as a plea for a more proactive attempt to rescue refugees lives. Perhaps this was because of my practise being based around this subject or that the audio wasn’t playing at the precise time I viewed the work. If I had experienced the vocal contribution to the work I might have found it harder to draw the conclusions I did.

‘Wetin You Go Do?’ Otobong Nkanga Photograph of Tate Tank Exhibition by Ruth Linnell

It was interesting to obverse how visitors mannered around the space. Many leaned towards the spheres in an attempt to hear the audio which had been mentioned in the Tate’s description of the work, whilst others circulated the whole room. I think that a new dimension would have been brought to the piece if the public were encouraged to walk in amongst the instillation. This might have imparted a sense of being interconnected in self, following physically the network of ropes which reflect our social patterns.

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