Poetry in a foreign language

If you have the chance to go to the current Steve McQueen exhibition at the South London Gallery until the 7th of November, go. But if you do go, try not to hear anything about it beforehand. That’s how I went, on Sunday, and I was puzzled and moved, trying to find threads and meanings in a succession of images and noises. It’s tremendous, honestly. I found it very hard to leave. It made me late and I still haven’t had time to buy that rug I want.

So if you think you might go along, maybe you should stop reading now. For those of you who won’t get to the show, McQueen has sourced the images which were sent into space on the Voyager2 spacecraft to illustrate Earth and Earth culture. He fades from one to the next in an extremely dark room, to the sound of all manner of glossolalia, which sounds like poetry in a foreign language.

The website notes that the pictures show an idealised Earth, one without war or any of war’s horseman mates. I thought it felt more like Martin Parr had compiled “Boring Postcards: Earth”: such rich blankness, such a sense of possibility. And it’s easy to imagine the speaking-in-tongues making sense, imagine the sounds being creation myths or romances. Especially when one of the unseen speakers sounds for all the world like Brian Cant.