I have decided to go to the Tate Gallery next Friday 1971 consists of five panels – two introductory panels which present the work’s title in different contexts as a statement and as a ‘statement operative as art-work’, which are then followed by a black and white photograph of a back view of Arnatt as he walks up the front steps of the entrance to the Tate Gallery on Millbank, seemingly acting out the decision that both statements declare. This is in turn followed by two panels that deploy writings by the philosophers Jack W. Meiland, A. Kenny and Brice Noel Fleming that describe the relation between decision and intention. Arnatt uses these textual fragments to proffer an explanation of what it might mean philosophically if a stated intention is not then carried out or acted on, where ‘a statement of intention is false’ and, if in such a respect ‘we do not suppose that a man is or even can be mistaken about his intentions’, then ‘another mark of the concept of intention is that a man can lie about them’. Arnatt was consistent in positioning his work somewhere between knowing, believing and seeing. The direction taken by the text puts the previously imagined clear-cut nature of the photographic image into question.
I have decided to go to the Tate Gallery next Friday was reproduced in the magazine Studio International shortly after it was made (vol.181, no.933, May 1971, pp.208–9) as a double page spread, with the long text on the left-hand page and a cropped version of the image on the right-hand page. It is one of a group of works which were exhibited, or intended to be exhibited in Keith Arnatt’s participation in Seven Exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London in 1972. Other works from this group are Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist 1968 (Tate P13145), Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self 1969–72 (Tate P13143), Art as an Act of Retraction 1971 (Tate P13140), Art as an Act of Omission 1971 (Tate P13144), and Rejected Proposal for the Peter Stuyvesant ‘City Sculpture Project’ (For Cardiff City) 1972 (Tate P13141). In their range they illustrate the move in Arnatt’s work from the making of situational sculptures to a documentation of performative acts that question – through a linking of philosophical text with image – the status of art and the role and identity of the artist, whom Arnatt shows to be in different states of disappearance. This group of work was presented by the artist to Tate Gallery Archive in 1972 and transferred to the collection in 2010.
Seven Exhibitions, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1972.
The New Art, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1972.
I’m a Real Photographer: Keith Arnatt Photographs 1974–2002, exhibition catalogue, Photographer’s Gallery, London 2007.