London Art Reviews

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The Tanks opening festival at Tate Modern.

Boris Charmatz, Flip Book, 1997 © Boris Charmatz

The Tanks opening festival at Tate Modern.

David Franchi – 6th September 2012

“the Tate Tanks could be a key event in the history of art”

The Tate Tanks are a new captivating idea, according to the numerous public attending the venue. It seems to be the first space permanently dedicated to exhibiting live art, performance, installation and film works, and, additionally, an attempt to preserve the new media.

Inaugurated the last 18th July, the Tate Tanks are at the core of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. The Tate Tanks have been launched with a fifteen-week festival until the 28th October 2012. Over 40 established and emerging artists from across the world will be taking part.

They are a space to propose again classic performances previously been staged at Tate Modern in different spaces. However, they are also showing newly commissioned works. The opening programme is supported by The Tanks Supporters Group.

“They are new spaces for totally new productions of arts. New spaces for learning from experience. There is the problem of the storage of art performances. Tate Tanks are to collect, reconstruct and show performances”, said Chris Dercon, Tate Modern Director.

Located on the south side of Tate Modern Turbine Hall, the Tate Tankswere designed by Herzog &

Eddie Peake, DEM performed at Cell Project Space London, 2012 © Eddie Peake, Ph: Damian Jaques

de Meuron. They are raw industrial spaces.

The Tate Tanks, in fact, were originally massive industrial chambers containing oil that fuelled the power station and have lain unused since it was decommissioned in 1981. They each measure over thirty metres across and seven metres high.

Ideally, the Tate Tanks could be a key event in the history of art. Performance art is born around a hundred years ago with Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism, and it mingles elements of theatre, dance, literature, painting, sculpture, music and film.

Tate Tanks seems to give an answer to the problem of art conservation for the new media. The ‘new media art preservation’, in fact, is the study and practice of techniques for sustaining artworks created using digital, biological, performative, and other variable media. Artworks created using new media are deteriorating and it is rather difficult to preserve them.

Ephemera medium, the hasty technological obsolescence, contextual or live qualities of the artworks, are all problematic aspects of the art conservation which have stimulated debate and research into new preserving strategies. The Tate Tanks as a first space permanently dedicated to exhibiting give boost to the solution of the problem.

The Tate Tanks are composed by three rooms: the East Tank, the South Tank and the Transformer Galleries.

The East Tank showcases a major new commission by Sung Hwan Kim, one of the key artists of his generation, which is supported by Sotheby’s.

In the South Tank, a series of projects will address the history of performance, film and interdisciplinary work alongside newly commissioned focus projects. Three are the main different sector: “Focus projects”, “Symposia” and “Learning”.

About “Focus projects” highlights include: Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, one of the most important choreographers of the late 20th century; Tania Bruguera was present for three weeks, running workshops and discussions on her latest project; Aldo Tambellini will re-envision his seminal 1960s electromedia environments. An ambitious series of live events and installations will re-examine groundbreaking figures in UK expanded cinema and film performance, including Brighton-based provocateur Jeff Keen, and Filmaktion Group. In the next event visitors will be invited to create their own performance with Haegue Yang’s new installation of her mobile performative sculptures.

Jeff Keen, Flik Flak, 1964 © Jeff Keen

Highlight of “Symposia” include Eddie Peake who created a new commission for Tate Modern that explores sexuality and voyeurism. “Learning” highlight was the young people’s festival Undercurrent a ten days of audio, digital media and performance rooted in London’s sub-cultures. Also families were involved in a ‘live action’ event that was created in response to the filmworks in the Tanks. Up to 5000 participants had streams of 16mm film to manipulate to create a narrative which will then be projected onto the vast circular subterranean walls of the Tanks as a mass-authored piece.

The Transformer Galleries showcase installations of recent major acquisitions of film and performance. Suzanne Lacy’s “Crystal Quilt” (1987), an exploration of the visibility of older women in the media, is presented alongside Lis Rhodes’s work “Light Music” (1975), which investigates the use of film, projection and sound and their relationship to the audience.

The opening of the Tanks is Phase 1 of the Tate Modern Project. The new building will be completed by 2016. The new development, designed by internationally celebrated architects, Herzog & de Meuron, will create a spectacular new Tate Modern building. The new building will increase Tate Modern’s size by 60% adding approximately 21,000 square metres of new space. Anonymous donations has given the opportunity to complete the first phase, having raised over three quarters of the total capital costs of £215 million – £50 million from Government, £7m from the Greater London Authority and the remainder from private sources.

The Tanks programme is curated by Catherine Wood, Curator of Contemporary Art and Performance, Kathy Noble, Curator of Interdisciplinary Projects and Stuart Comer, Curator of Film in collaboration with Learning colleagues including Marko Daniel, Convenor (Adult Programmes) and Mark Miller, Convenor (Young People’s Programmes).

From 18th July until 28th October 2012.

At Tate Modern, Southbank, London.



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