Edvard Munch – The Modern Eye
Exhibition at Tate Modern, London, until 14 October.
Reviewed by Adam Whitford
A: So why are we at this exhibition?
B: I was asked to review it for SR and I’ve got a Tate membership card.
A: It’s £14 a head for most of us. Is SR trying to reach out to the masses or something?
B: Ungrateful sod… you get in free as my guest.
A: Thanks – and what I’m getting from this exhibition is… alienation.
B: Yours or Munch’s?
A: Both. So in terms of his alienation, I suppose the lonely, scared people in the foregrounds of the paintings are a giveaway, that and groups of people in the backgrounds who could be talking about the lonely, scared people in the foregrounds.
B: A bit like ‘The Scream’ then.
A: Yes, shame they don’t have it here. Perhaps they could have included the inflatable version that was popular in the 90s.
B: That’ll be in the gift shop.
A: So, alienation… you could write something about how it’s not a universal feature of the human condition – it takes a specific form under capitalist modernity. And, erm, great artists are able to capture certain aspects of human experience under capitalism.
B: Do you really speak like this normally?
A: ‘Fraid so. I’m a Brechtian construct to awaken the reader to the artificiality of this whole dialogue and the necessity of engaging with the class struggle rather than reading this bollocks.
B: Git. Anyway, what about that picture of Workers on the Way Home (1913-14)? Alienation isn’t just about middle-class bohemians feeling a bit depressed, is it? The world we have made confronts us as an alien power, ‘n’ shit.
A: Maybe Munch feels scared of all these workers. There’s one looming towards him in the middle of the pic. Trust you to focus on the one big picture of MALE workers. Stalin would have been proud.
B: Ha, at least you’ve touched on gender. Don’t you feel the claustrophobia of the bourgeois nuclear family and bourgeois sexual mores in some of these paintings? Look at those paintings of weeping women in bedrooms.
A: Look at those vampire-like femmes fatales… yawn!
B: But notice the brushwork expressive of Munch’s inner torment.
A: Yup. Miserable bastard. Let’s find the gift shop.