Welcome to the first of my blog entries.  I work in the Tate London Learning department, which reaches across Tate Modern and Tate Britain.  Reporting to the Director of Learning, my role is to lead on strategic programme development.

Without being earnest or worthy, we take learning seriously at Tate.  This is not because we think learning should be deadly serious or that people should be lectured at and instructed in what to think, but more that we believe that everyone who visits the gallery should be able to connect with art and should enjoy developing new insights and knowledge.  Learning as we understand it comes about when we experience something new or unexpected that gives us fresh perspectives and, without doubt, art has the capacity to provoke new understandings.  But we also recognise that art can sometimes be daunting or baffling and if we have no way in, new insights can be hard to find.

Sonic Kusama music workshop at Infinite Kusama March 2012
Sonic Kusama, music workshop at Infinite Kusama March 2012

At Tate, we aim to provide resources and events that are specifically designed to support visitors to find ways in to the works and make those works available to everyone.  These range from the wall texts in the Galleries to participatory days for families, activities for schools and young people and conferences and talks for those with specialist interests.  We recognise that different visitors bring different knowledge and experiences and hence have different needs.  From our perspective, no one has ‘better’ knowledge, but some may feel more familiar engaging with art and asking questions of it, with little in the way of support from the gallery. Meanwhile others may want or need information, or a discussion, or even some ideas on good questions to ask as a place to start.We seek to cater for all of these

This is particularly true for the 15 week ‘Art in Action’ programme taking place in the newly opened Tanks at Tate Modern that will run from July 18th to October 28th.  Learning is at the heart of the Tanks, not least because key questions thread throughout the whole programme.  Questions such as ‘how does a film perform?’ ‘How are social relations established through art?’ and ‘what connect sub-cultures with mainstream art forms?’ are being explored through the work of artists showing across the summer.

Learning in the Tanks at Tate Modern
Late at Tate Britain, Answering questions at Performance: Discuss, 2011

And the same questions feature in the interpretation on the walls, are central to the family days on the 2nd September and 28th October and the events for teachers and school children. These questions also inform ‘Undercurrent’ the events, installations and performances devised by and for young people that takes place from the 16th to the 27th August, whilst the three symposia, (the first of which ‘Inside/Outside: Materialising the Social’ takes place on the 21st July) tackle the questions head on.

With all of these events and activities our aim is to invite participation, discussion, debate and enjoyment.  We also want visitors to contribute ideas, information and new knowledge.  The Tanks are a new space and, as such, provide a fantastic opportunity for us to experiment and, indeed, to learn.