American artist Mark Dion blurs the line between artist and scientist. For the Tate Thames Dig, Dion will beachcomb the Thames riverbanks at Millbank and Bankside. The finds from the two sites will be examined and classified by Dion and a team of local volunteers in tents on the South Lawn of the Tate at Bankside from 19 July to 13 August. The project culminates in an Art Now display at the Tate Gallery at Millbank from 26 October 1999 to 20 February 2000.
Dion was born in 1961 and lives and works in New York. Since the 1980s he has constructed laboratories, reconstructed experiments and staged displays of hidden museum treasures, presenting them as walk-through, life-sized cabinets of curiosities. His work questions the processes of classification (or taxonomy) which so often give the appearance of meaning to things. By including the public in the act of creating his work Dion demystifies cultural institutions where these processes normally take place and illuminates the strategies which underlie curatorship and taxonomy. His work has been seen recently at the Tate Gallery Liverpool, as part of Artranspennine98, the Venice Biennale (1997) and the Münster Sculpture Project (1997).
Millbank and Bankside have a diverse and rich history - eighteenth-century Millbank was the site of a huge prison and sixteenth-century Bankside housed theatres, brothels and bear and bull-baiting pits. Initial walks along the banks of the river have already revealed a fascinating array of objects, from a plastic fridge magnet, animal teeth and claws, to porcelain dating from circa 1880. The tents will be open for visitors to examine the finds, ask questions, and discuss activities. Throughout the duration of the project, a range of experts, professionals, local amateurs and enthusiasts, will give talks to the team and members of the public on different aspects of the river, eco-politics, forensics, London’s history and archaeology.
The Tate Thames Dig is part of a pre-opening programme of events and exhibitions organised by the Tate Gallery of Modern Art.