Tate Modern, Level 2
4 November 2011 – 8 January 2012
Tate Modern’s Level 2 Gallery presents I decided not to save the world, an exhibition that has arisen from a collaboration between Tate Modern and SALT, Istanbul. Featuring the work of four artists, the exhibition will explore how they address social concerns through a light-hearted and playful approach. Presented in the Level 2 Gallery, Tate Modern’s dedicated space for emerging and recently established international artists, the exhibition will bring together a variety of works, many of which have never been shown in the UK before, by Mounira Al Solh (born 1978), Yto Barrada (born 1971), Mircea Cantor (born 1977) and the collective Slavs and Tatars.
The work of these artists is united by the combination of critical social commentary and a humorous use of irony, satire and the absurd. The exhibition takes its name from Mircea Cantor’s 2011 video, in which a single take of a child stating the words ‘I decided not to save the world’ is repeated on a continuous loop. Revealing the complexity that underlies the simplest of statements, the work is typical of the way Cantor responds to contemporary concerns using simple and direct gestures. Vertical Attempt 2009, a one-second long looped video of the same child trying to cut water with scissors, presents both a funny and charming account of challenging the impossible.
Also on display will be Yto Barrada’s sculpture Palm Sign 2010, her tongue in cheek poster installation A Modest Proposal and the film Beau Geste 2009, which examine Morocco’s rapid modernisation by playfully addressing the marketing campaigns used to promote a ‘contemporary’ image of the city to tourists. The autobiographical video Rawane’s Song 2006 is Mounira Al Solh’s witty take on her own struggle to create art about the Lebanese wars, while the text-based works and installations of Slavs and Tatars explore the region they describe as ‘east of the former Berlin wall and west of the Great Wall of China’. Playing with double-meanings, mistranslation, language barriers and notions of east and west, this artist collective take slogans out of their original context and present them as absurd yet profound statements. For example It is of utmost importance we repeat our mistakes as a reminder to the future generations of the depths of our stupidity was created in response to contemporary American politics as part of their first body of work and will be updated for its display at Tate Modern.
Yto Barrada was born in Paris in 1971, and now lives and works in Tangier, Morocco. Mounira Al Solh was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1978, where she continues to live and work. Mircea Cantor was born in Oradea, Romania in 1977, and now lives and works in Paris, France. Slavs and Tatars are a collective of polemics and intimacies devoted to Eurasia.
I decided not to save the world is the latest in the Level 2 Gallery’s series of international bilateral collaborations with other art organisations around the world. The exhibition is curated by Kyla McDonald, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern and Duygu Demir, Programmer, SALT. As part of the collaborative exchanges, Gasworks hosted Duygu Demir for a talk and discussion on her role at SALT Programs and Research in August 2011.
The Level 2 Gallery programme has been made possible with the generous support of Catherine Petitgas.