Today was the new Tate Tanks members preview day. For those that don't know, the Tate Tanks are the first stage in the redevelopment of Tate Modern, which will eventually allow 60% more of the collection to go on show. This is great news. It will also allow for even more touring exhibitions. The Tanks themselves are vast underground oil tanks, and will be used for a mixture of contemporary art and performance. They open to the public tomorrow.
It was interesting being able to walk down the iconic ramp and then turn right. Whilst the Turbine hall is an incredible space, I think that having things on both sides of it helps to create a sense of balance, something that will only increase as the new structure takes shape, and a new high level bridge arches across it. Walking into the Tanks leads to a sense of palpable excitement. The architecture is chunky and, to a fan of Brutalism such as myself, deeply appealing. I did wonder if the air conditioning would be up to scratch, though. With hundreds of excited members all crammed into this thick walled, subterranean space, it was a little bit sweaty and unpleasant at times.
It's perhaps hard to remember the hope we felt during the first flushes of the Arab Spring, when I, for one, was glued to the news websites, reading their live streams and dreaming of real change. Despite the good news coming out of Egypt at first, it seems like the army have been playing for time, hoping that the people would grow tired of revolution and settle for something that doesn't really shift the status quo. It can feel odd cheering on the Muslim Brotherhood, but despite what a raft of internet warriors would have you believe, there are many shades of Islamism, and the Freedom and Justice Party so far have proven closer to the Turkish sort than the Iranian.
So, how to keep the army busy and out of politics? With nearly half a million active soldiers (the 10th largest army in the world, who knew?) they certainly have plenty of personnel. Perhaps if the UN were serious about securing peace in Syria some of these guys could be sent over there, rather than the paltry 300 observers on the last mission. I can't say it's a flawless plan - the Alawites in Syria might be a little worried about letting a largely Sunni force in, for a start. Then again, Syria and Egypt were the same country in the lifetimes of most officers, if not of the grunts. And generals with some proper action on their hands might be less inclined to spend all their time defending their personal fiefdoms.
A pipe dream at best, but given that its clear which side Saudi Arabia is on, it's a more practical solution than asking them to step in and keep the peace.
Little ideas that spin through my mind.