This was the opening of the Tate Modern extension, June 17th. A monolithic twisty triangle thing on the back of the existing building. It finally opened in June, so Tate Collective London were given a lovely shiny new floor to programme an event on Friday.
As long-time members of the collective, Rupinder and I got called into the office in early March 2016 to work with the Young People’s Programme to curate and carry out the opening event. Tate Collective’s strand of the opening was divided into two parts: Future Talks and Future Late, with Rupinder working on the former and myself on the latter. Key to this event was that we were programming in a space that we had not yet worked in – this proved to be both challenging, exciting and highly rewarding.
Future Talks begun early on the morning of the opening. A series of three creative led panel discussions, the talks were programmed with the aim of inspiring young creatives. The talks were split into three thematics: Future Creativity, which was aimed at considering how to ‘do it yourself’ in the creative industries. The panel included performance artist Xavier de Sousa, and graphic design duo Chi + Josh.
The second talk, Future Spaces, considered alternative ways to exhibit art away from the traditional gallery space. Our speakers included New York based Grace Micelli, founder of Art Baby Gallery and London based Alberto Duman and Sophie Mason of Dig Collective. The final talk, Future Cultures, featured filmmaker duo The Rest (Alex Motlhabane and Lewis Levi), who spoke about how young people are shaping the cultures of tomorrow.
Programming the talks was a fantastic experience and for me, a very different type of programming to programming larger scaled events like Late at Tate that I have previously been involved in. In curating the talks I was able to meet with the artists in advance and to programme the Q&A alongside my Tate Collective London peers so that they – when chairing the talks – were asking stimulating questions of the artists and their experiences. The process of working on Future Talks, from start to end was an invaluable learning experience. From thinking about how best to market the talks, to employing administrative skills and excel spreadsheets to making sure I had a strict schedule in the run up to the event and its set up, or in making sure that myself and the group of Tate Collectives involved in Future Talks were sticking to our plan during the day of the event – this included scheduling targeted social media to bring in a crowd. Needless to say, everything went smoothly and we had a full house for all three talks! My experience of working on the talks also extended beyond the opening as subsequent to the event I was able to work with Tate’s digital and design teams to create follow up digital content relating to the talks. This was valuable as not only did it allow for documentation of the talks but it also allowed key content from the talks to be dispersed to a much larger, international, audience.
With the task at hand of programming for the evening event, I think one thing we wanted to stress was the element of fun, as well as mixing together the old and the new. For Future Late across the floor we had both paper AND digital.
Illustrator Jean Jullien had a gigantic easel in which he painted life-size portraits of people, which were then cut out and positioned around the space. Isabel + Helen, wonderful set designers, were inspired by Picasso’s Three Dancers and made interactive dancing sculptures inspired by them. We had Ronan Mckenzie taking beautiful intimate photos of people, as well as speaking to them about where they call home, and leaving their snapshot on a map. Benedict Drew had a room filled with thumping music and atmospheric lights, a mixed media delight proclaiming his imagine future. An amazing sculpture from IDat which read the data from the Tate building and transformed it into projected imagery.
Whew! As you can see, there was a lot to programme. It was so cool to see something from conception to delivery, and help make those important decisions. There is an indescribable feeling to be had on the night when you are rushing around, galloping upstairs, moving things across the building, generally making sure everything is running smoothly (which it did!), and seeing something you helped make happen so busy, active, with people engaging in fully.
This experience has been such a learning curve for me, in things that I’ve never even considered before! For starters- learning all the ins and outs of office and email etiquette (saying goodbye to my dear emojis). Learning how to use the right tone of voice is something I will take with me into whatever workplace I go into. Although being organised and planning is really crucial- I also learned the importance of how to think on your feet! Being about the make a decision on the spot and going with the flow is just as vital when planning an event.
We were working in a new space that we hadn’t programmed in before, so that posed all sorts of challenges. Working in a role like this allowed me to peek into all corners of Tate that I would never have seen before- from working out the digital content in social media, to visiting the graphic design team and getting a hand in printing a huge wall sized map!
It was also just lovely to meet the artists; hearing what they had in mind, helping them bring their ideas into fruition. Learning about their practice and speaking it through with them allowed us to plan their involvement fully and let us properly convey their message.
What a huge team effort! You really get to understand that when you see just how many people it takes to pull together and make an event like this happen. I think above all, the best part about it has been working with such interesting and likeminded people, crew, amazing artists and all.
Photos c. Dan Weill