My first thought on entering the Duveen Galleries this time was that the pungent smell of machinery, a heady scent of oil, metal and dirt, has faded but the exhibition still thrills. The presentation of the machinery raised above working height is imposing and gives the machines a presence which mitigates any thought of neglect and redundancy.
The cast plinths used throughout the Duveen galleries are a homogeneous element linking the various exhibits. However, a number of these plinths have been artificially distressed and sport gaping holes. I found this distracting on my first visit. On this second visit, this artifice seems just as incongruous to me. The holes are distracting and I feel that they bring into question the authenticity of the exhibits and sit uncomfortably in the context of lost function and history.
What was the intention? The plinths themselves, clearly part of a well designed curatiorial plan consolidate the overall look of the exhibition without diverting attention from the machines and objects. The edges of the concrete plinths are slightly battered, the surfaces scuffed and stained in places. This is not the show for pristine white plinths. The raw edges of the holes give a glimpse not only of the gallery floor but also of the production process. Bent stakes of the metal armature can be seen, together with the polystyrene filing and the layers of poured concrete. Despite not being cleanly cut and clinical, the holes appear contrived and draw the eye without adding to the reading of the exhibition.