This November, the home of British art unveils its biggest makeover to date. To celebrate we’re throwing a party, and you’re all invited. If you’re feeling creative, find out how you can perform at Tate Britain’s House Warming Party
On 19 November, Tate Britain re-opens following a £45 million redevelopment, marking a complete transformation of the oldest part of the Grade II building. There’ll be new education areas, a revamped restaurant, café and a shiny new members bar to complement the new displays unveiled this spring.
And it’s even better than that, fine readers. We wanted to bring to your attention that while our celebrity friends were asked to perform on camera or via a Google+ hangout, we’re asking you to perform LIVE in the gallery, at our House Warming Party on Saturday 23 November. We’ll bring the nibbles.
To perform at the party, you’d need to enrol in one of three creative courses that culminate in the event. The literary critic, Lucy Scholes, the poet, James Wilkes, and the composer, Claudia Molitor, will be inviting participants to respond to the collection in the form of stories, poetry and song.
So let’s first get to know each other. We asked each course leader to share a little about themselves, their own creative lives and what you might expect from each course (you can also click each sub-heading for the event listing on each course).
Walking around the re-hung galleries at Tate Britain a few months ago, I was immediately attracted by the idea that the new displays were telling a particular story: the story of British art. But as I walked from room to room, I realised that this wasn’t simply the single story of the chronological history of a country’s artworks, these walls and plinths played host to all the characters, worlds, scenes, intrigue and tension needed for a thousand and one tales.
After running a course at Tate Modern earlier this year, I discovered that people jumped at the chance to be alone in the galleries after hours - and who can blame them, it’s an incredible, unique experience – so I was keen to use a similar model to explore the new space at Tate Britain.
The idea for my course is to use the collection as inspiration for creating stories. Moving between periods, each week we’ll explore a different facet of the storytelling process – from characterisation, dialogue, world-building and plot, to the performative art itself. Participants will learn how to build and then tell stories, a skill which can then put to good use at the House warming party.
I’ve always enjoyed teaching at Tate, but the lure of a good story has me particularly excited about this course. I’m trepidatious too though, as there are so many different directions our stories could take which inevitably leaves a lot up to chance when it comes to the idea of goals to be achieved or conclusions to be drawn. I’ve no way of knowing where we’ll end up, but that’s exhilarating – for me and the participants too, I hope!
When I was designing this course, of my first aims was to create situations where new writing techniques and powerful materials could rub up against each other.
One of the reasons I find it so tempting, and rewarding, to look to other art forms for new ideas, is the fact that no formula exists for exactly balancing technique and material; and that makes poetry a perpetually unfinished business. Poet Rosmarie Waldrop writes: ‘Any technique, to be useful, must fail to control.’ I’m also preoccupied by this dynamic.
We’ll look at prints that translate and distort themselves, including Tacita Dean’s The Russian Ending, and classic examples of experimental translation and versioning in poetry, such as Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. We’ll also explore methods of composition, sourcing our own found texts and taking inspiration from the way artists like Susan Hiller and writers like Georges Perec organise materials. I’m also eager to show participants Susan Howe’s Poems found in a Pioneer Museum – a wonderful set of letterpress card-poems, a copy of which is held in the Tate Library and Archive collection. In the last two weeks, we’ll look at writing for performance, and rehearse together ahead of the party.
As time progresses I’m hoping people will come up with their own experiments – tweaking techniques to make them more useful – and come to enjoy the points where the techniques falter and fail, too.
Preparations for the workshop are now in full swing, and there’s been a lot of city rambling: listening to and looking at Vauxhall, wandering through the area around Tate Britain and along the river, delving through archives and stumbling across fascinating histories and stories.
To prepare for our performance at the House Warming Party, we will become human field-recorders, delving into and exploring the view from Tate Britain through the experience of listening and looking. We’ll also work on our voices with singer Natalie Raybould, which I’m particularly looking forward to. Not being a singer or vocalist myself I’ll certainly be learning too!
Last time you walked
Through this view you were wearing
I’ve always found walking particularly conducive to thinking. It seems to afford a rich conceptual space for manipulating and playing around with ideas. Contemplating the performance on the day of the party is also a little unnerving… nothing is set in stone yet and the contribution from all the participants to the final outcome will form a large part of the piece.
What excites me though, is the coming together of a group of people to make a unique performance. The aim for me is to make the experience both fun and enriching, and for us to create a joy-full, ear-tickling and revealing journey into the relationships between looking and listening for the party audience. So do come and join us on the adventure!
The House warming party is at Tate Britain on Saturday 23 November 2013, 15.00–22.00, admisison free, no ticket required