I visited London for the day on Thursday, with my mum and Annie (off school due to the NUT strike). Mum had wanted to visit the Terracotta Army exhibition, but we had failed to get tickets; so instead I took her to see the Juan Munoz retrospective at Tate Modern, which included the piece 'Many Times'. With 100 figures all with similar Chinese features, I reckoned this was the next best thing to the Terracotta Army.
Other people round the world have seen this piece and blogged about it. Lots of people feel a little unsettled by it - the figures all seem to be in on the same joke, leaving the observer feeling as if they are excluded and perhaps as if they are themselves being observed, even ridiculed. I had no such sense, and rather felt joyful in the presence of all these laughing, footless little men. There was something ridiculous about them that made we want to smile the whole time we were in there. One figure alone could not have accomplished this; rather, it was in the lavish repetition that the genius lay. Many other people seemed similarly affected whilst we were there - as viewers were free to wander at will between the figures I positioned myself in a corner and watched as people walked in, all wearing their terribly serious and earnest art gallery faces, then as their expressions changed to smiles and wonder.
Of course all the best art allows the viewer to become a participant in some way, and this was certainly true for our little party. Not only did we wander between the figures, choosing our favourites and imagining the topics of conversation between them. On the way in Annie had caught a tiny caterpillar in her hair, which she had carried carefully around the exhibition (I think she said its name was 'Kevin'). By the time we left the 'Many Times' room it contained 100 small grey resin figures; and one teeny-tiny green caterpillar, sitting on the shoulder of a laughing grey man.