What Am I Looking At? Transforming the gallery space

Transform Low Res from Jessye Bloomfield on Vimeo.

Late at Tate is a free after hours event at Tate Britain giving visitors the opportunity to explore the gallery in a new way, with a backdrop of music, performance, workshops and installations. The Spring series across April, May and June, was co-programmed by Tate Collective London, collaborating with Circuit artist Jenny Moore. Jessye Bloomfield, a member of Tate Collective London and Circulate has filmed, documented and evaluated Tate Collective’s collaboration with artist Jenny Moore over the series.

It’s been an altogether different experience for Tate Collective choreographing and performing at the Late at Tate series Speculate at Tate Britain. After unpicking the theme Speculate into three subthemes; Question, Disrupt and Transform we knew from the outset that we wanted and needed to work in a medium that had the ability to materialise these concepts. Performance art felt like the perfect medium; alongside its ability to be surprising and spontaneous it was a medium that was new to us and therefore. Collaborating with performance artist Jenny Moore across 8 weeks, we were able to question our own as well as our audience’s pre-conceptions of behaviour within the gallery space.

While we often take artworks as a starting point for developing our event ideas, we focussed on the gallery space itself initially and aimed to break down the pre-conceptions of silence and conventional etiquette. Tate Collective London always aims to attract a new young audience, so we knew that for some of our visitors, this would be there first time at Tate. We also wanted to create an environment where visitors were uninhibited, so could really connect with the artworks on display and empowered to come to their own conclusions.

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Building on the previous two months, for June’s Late at Tate we collaborated again with young performers from the Next Choreography programme at Siobhan Davies Dance and The REC experimental choir. We also built up a network of performers that grew with each event which massively benefited the project and it was great to work with a new network outside of Tate Collective.

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One of our most successful pieces was perhaps one of the simplest. The REC choir lay on the floor of the giant Duveen gallery underneath Christina Mackie’s colourful ceiling-high sculpture. As they began performing a harmonious and rhythmic sound we all began lying on the floor with them. Whilst people were singing, moving and looking around, it felt as though time stood still for that moment. There was a real sense of serenity and peacefulness in this often daunting cavernous space. It was great to see audience members participating in this one, lying with us to enjoy the space, we felt this completely achieved our initial aim of creating an environment where participation was welcomed.

While sometimes experimental and with limited time for rehearsals, we felt that these performances successfully broke down the gallery spaces and its preconceptions, enabling our audience to question their space, their physicality and their responses to it. This was the first month that our visitors participated and it felt like the three events had become conversational, our audience sensing something new each time until taking part themselves.

As well as our audience’s response, this project and working with Jenny had a more personal impact on Tate Collective members. At times it was a struggle working towards 3 months’ worth of content, and throwing ourselves into something a bit unknown, but it was all part of the fun. We all agreed that we felt a real sense of ownership over this project, our ideas developed through each performance and our conversations afterwards. Debriefs became essential for moving forward; assessing ourselves was key in learning how to improve each month. We all had to have a sense of trust in each other and ourselves. One of the most rewarding feelings was encapsulated by a Tate Collective who said “I feel proud to be part of Tate Collective”.

By Jessye Bloomfield

 

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