Tate Modern museum — where’s the “precautionary principle”?

Read an article about precaution and risk — in the Arts section of The New York Times today. Seems that the Tate Modern museum in London has a new artistic installation: Doris Salcedo’s “Shibboleth.” According to the Tate, the work concerns “the divisions between creed, color, class and culture that maintain our social order, precariously balanced as it is on the precipice of a chaotic void of hatred.”

And what is this artwork? It’s a 500-long irregularly shaped fissure in the floor of the gallery. It ranges from about one foot at its widest and is as deep as three feet. Turns out that about 13 people have been injured by falling over or into the crevasse.

One attendee who tripped over the exhibit and hurt herself didn’t really like the idea of the crack in the floor.

“I don’t think it should be there at all.” she said. “It’s not America,” she added pointedly, “so I won’t sue.”

But what I really liked about the article was a quote from an attendee who was delighted by the exhibit.

Mr. Lord, 54, the visitor who was not sure what the piece meant, pronounced himself thrilled that it allowed for the possibility of injury, however remote.

“I applaud it,” said Mr. Lord, a film animator. “In England the words ‘health and safety’ have become a catchphrase, a standing joke of things you can’t do.”