At the beginning of the month, I went to London to see Hamlet with some friends. A couple of days before our trip, I was googling late night gallery openings, as you do, and I noticed that the ‘Late at the Tate Britain’ event was organised by Circuit. “Circuit, eh?” I thought to myself. “That rings a bell.” I am a member of the Mostyn Circuit group (also known as Glitch) and I live in a small, seaside town in North Wales. We have a brilliant art gallery here and we have taken part in (and organised) a lot of fun projects in our time, but nothing to this scale. I was curious and I knew I had to see how a big-city, big-art gallery group throws an event for myself.
On Friday 2, after stuffing our faces with poutine and doughnuts at Dinerama in Shoreditch, we hopped on the tube at Liverpool Street and hightailed it down to Pimlico. I used to attend the late night gallery openings every month when I was at university, but I graduated four years ago (gulp) and it had been a long time since I last set foot in Tate Britain. It was with some excitement that I rounded the corner onto Millbank and gazed up at its striking columned facade. The first thing I noticed was the sheer amount of people. They were everywhere; spilling out onto the steps and milling around in the entranceway. The gallery was bright and welcoming and I could hear loud music coming from inside. I grabbed a programme in the foyer and ventured further in.
The current Late at the Tate sessions are inspired by the theme of ‘Status’ and this particular event explored the relationship between ‘Status and Power’ (the November and December programmes will focus on ‘Status and Body’ and ‘Status and Celebrity’ respectively). Tate Collective London had organised an eclectic programme of events and visitors were treated to musical performances, workshops, installations and discussions with artists, musicians and performers. There was so much going on that I wished I’d arrived earlier and spent less time eating chips in East London.
We arrived after eight, so we missed a couple of things, including ‘Skinny Girl Diet in Conversation’ and some of the DJ sets. There was a big queue for ‘PUSHCRAYONS: Open Hand’, an immersive audio visual experience in the Taylor Digital Studio, so we decided to wander through the gallery and take in the event on the down-low. It was just fun to be there and to explore the artwork with a drink and a soundtrack provided by local musicians. We took in the Turners and the Lowrys and Tracey Emin’s famed bed, then popped into the Nate Kitch collage workshop in the Clore Studio. It was packed in there, a frenzy of scissors, pritt-stick and photo ephemera and I watched happily from the sidelines. A Circuit member with a camera stopped to chat to us about the concept and I contemplated revealing my true identity, but then I got distracted by a wall of finished collages – a joyous jumble of David Camerons with pig snouts and curly tails.
We finished off our evening with another trip to the bar and then we took our drinks over to John Everett Millais’s ‘Ophelia’ and did some pre-Hamlet contemplation of Lizzie Siddal’s fey heroine, drowned in a brook and festooned with flowers. Somebody approached us with the ever-familiar Circuit iPad survey and I decided to pluck up my courage and talk about my vested interest in the evening. “Are you a member of Circuit?” I asked casually. No, it turned out. She was a new member of staff and not a member of Tate Collective London after all. I left the conversation there and answered the survey instead. “How often do you visit art galleries or museums?” she asked. “Oh, quite a lot,” I replied slyly.
Jess Cripps, GLITCH member.