Through Circuit, Tate Liverpool has changed to becoming more diverse within the range of platforms of art presented with and for the public. We have witnessed a growing openness at Tate Liverpool to encourage participation of young people within the delivery of a diverse range of public-facing gallery events and programme, culminating in the spring of 2016 with Art Gym and in the winter and early spring of 2017 with A Democratic Dialogue, a Tate Exchange project led by Tate Collective Liverpool.
A Democratic Dialogue began as a project on identity, as an artist-commission for the Tate Exchange programme of participatory installations and workshops, and it evolved into a peer-led, creative direct action, with the members of the Collective in the role of artists and curators, addressing issues the Collective felt were worth fighting for. Through a series of workshops and debates, the Collective created a list of provocations to spur discussion with the public. To give a shape to their provocations, in February 2017 the Collective produced large protest banners that were taken into the streets of Liverpool and the gallery spaces at Tate Liverpool in a series of two days of creative direct action. In their acts of occupation, holding and carrying their large provocations, the Collective marched and stood for some time, voicing their provocations to members of the public and to gallery visitors and staff. Banners featured the following provocations: WILL WE LEARN FROM HISTORY? + WHEN DO WORLD ISSUES BECOME FICTION? + DREAMERS NOT SLEEPERS + PROTECT THE YOUNG + IS THIS REAL? + WAKE UP IN 3, 2, 1…
The banners, prototypes and earlier versions of provocations, and film documentation of Tate Collective’s creative direct actions were installed within public exhibition space at Tate Liverpool from 5 – 18 March 2017. The installation also featured two soundpieces — one by London-based singer, musician, artist Klein, as her sonic response to the Collective’s provocations, and the other produced by Tate Collective as a response to Klein’s sound piece, both together on a loop as a sonic dialogue. The public were invited to join in a dialogue with the Collective by visiting the space and responding to the provocations through social media using hashtags #democraticdialogue and #tateexchange on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
These positive disruptions served to create platforms for the voices of Tate Collective Liverpool, platforms wherein hopefully the Collective were listened to. A Democratic Dialogue also charts some progress toward positively disrupting hierarchies within the art gallery, toward spurring institutional change. The persistent interdepartmental hierarchies found within art galleries, and in particular between curatorial-exhibitions’ terrain of cultural productions and the equivalent produced through learning and education departments, is somewhat entrenched within an art organisation with collections to curate: the notion that there is ‘official culture’ and then there are learning or educational projects produced as supplements to that ‘official culture’ persists. A Democratic Dialogue, as well as Art Gym and the Blueprint Festival before it, have been key moments of disruption of those hierarchies, as the organisation as a whole moves toward viewing and presenting cultural productions of young people facilitated by learning departments as equally significant as – and worthy of receiving as much organisational support as – the cultural productions overseen by their curatorial-exhibitions counterparts.