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  • The World as a Stage exhibition at Tate Modern, installation view

    View of The World as a Stage at Tate Modern

    Photo: Andrew Dunkley

  • The World as a Stage exhibition at Tate Modern, installation view

    View of The World as a Stage at Tate Modern

    Photo: Andrew Dunkley

Pawel Althamer
b 1967, Poland

A pile of clothing has apparently been abandoned, along with a briefcase, mobile phone and wallet. The dishevelled heap suggests that they were rapidly discarded by their owner, whether in a swift change of role or something more sinister. This work, Self-Portrait as a Businessman 2002 – 4, was originally made for an exhibition in Berlin. The day before the exhibition opened, artist Pawel Althamer appeared in Potsdamer Platz dressed as a typical business man. He then took off his clothes and walked away naked, leaving his belongings to remain for the duration of the exhibition. 

Althamer’s Film 2000 is also being presented in London as part of The World as a Stage.

Cezary Bodzianowski
b. 1968, Poland

Cezary Bodzianowski’s performances are witty disruptions of everyday life. Placing himself among ordinary passers-by, he transforms normal situations into a theatre of the absurd. The video Luna 2005 features Bodzianowski inside a large rotating drum with one rollerblade on his foot, another on his hand, struggling to keep his balance. Flying Helmet 2007 is a newly commissioned work, in which Bodzianowski endeavours to measure the exterior dimensions of the Globe Theatre, the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theatre close to Tate Modern. Having calculated the surface area of The Globe, he will compare it with the dimensions of that other globe, planet Earth. Bodzianowski’s investigations promise a literal analysis of the relationship described by Shakespeare between the world and the stage. 

Ulla Von Brandenburg
b 1974, Germany

Ulla von Brandenburg has made a number of works based on the idea of the tableau vivant, or ‘living picture’. Popular in the nineteenth century, the tableau vivant was a combination of fine art and theatre, with live models carefully posed and lit in a composition like that of a painting or photograph. Kugel 2007 is staged in a garden, in which von Brandenburg films a reflection of the figures in the curved surface of a mirrored ball. The artist and her camera are also reflected, emphasising the constructed artifice of the scene. The figures themselves appear to belong to the past, though it is hard to pin them down to any specific period, adding to the ghostly sense of frozen time.

Von Brandenburg’s Curtain 2007 is a reconstruction of the patchwork curtain specially designed in 1932 for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratfordupon-Avon. A slight gap where the curtains meet in the middle heightens our sense of the divide between performers and audience, and raises the question: which side are we on? 

Jeremy Deller
b 1966, England

The miners’ strike of 1984 – 5 was a landmark in the history of industrial relations in Britain. Beginning as a protest against the closure of 20 pits, it ended with the defeat of the National Union of Miners and the destruction of many mining communities. One of the most controversial episodes was the so-called ‘Battle of Orgreave’, a violent clash between police and striking miners at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire. Eighteen years later, artist Jeremy Deller staged a re-enactment of the battle. Former miners and policemen who were involved in the original battle took part, alongside members of historical re-enactment societies. The Battle of Orgreave Archive (An Injury to One is an Injury to All) 2004 shows the detailed preparations underlying the project, which brings together personal memories and scrupulous historical research. 

Deller’s theatrical re-staging of the battle becomes a way of inhabiting and imaginatively processing the past.

Trisha Donnelly
b 1974, USA

The Redwood and the Raven 2004 appears to be a single image of a woman in front of a redwood tree. In fact, it belongs to a sequence of 31 photographs, depicting the dancer Frances Flannery as she performs a dance called ‘The Raven’, which she choreographed to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem of the same name. Each day, a different image in the sequence is shown, so that the performance gradually unfolds over the course of the exhibition. Even for the repeat visitor, however, the previous stages of the dance can only be referred to as memories while looking at the present image. Trisha Donnelly has consistently played with ideas of performance in her work, exploring the territory of secrets and private rituals, the unfathomable and ambiguous.

Geoffrey Farmer
b 1967, Canada

Hunchback Kit 2000 – 7 is a collection of objects and documents that comprise a do-it-yourself kit for staging an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame 1831. Several of the items in the kit can be seen as props and costumes for an actor wishing to assume the persona of Hugo’s hunchback bell-ringer, Quasimodo. Other items relate more broadly to the events and characters in the book, and its numerous adaptations on stage and screen. Alongside the kit hangs the rope of a church bell and on the floor beside it the bell itself, which, we are told, has rung in a distant forest. Many of artist Geoffery Farmer’s works consist of accumulations of material related to a given subject, typically drawing upon images and narratives from popular culture and literature. 

Andrea Fraser
b 1965, USA

Screened within the main collection displays, Andrea Fraser’s Hello! Welcome to Tate Modern 2007 is a scrambled re-mix of the museum’s Multimedia Tour.

The voices of artists, curators and other commentators overlap, building into a confusing dissonance. The accompanying images open up on screen in a layered montage of twentieth-century art, history and popular culture. Fraser has made a number of works that appropriate the tools of interpretation and publicity used by museums, such as gallery talks, wall texts and audioguides.

She describes her work as a form of ‘institutional analysis’, explaining ‘My model does remain closer to psychoanalysis… You could say that all my work is about the repressed fantasies of our field and about the desires produced and pursued through these fantasies.’

Dominique Gonzalez - Foerster
b 1965, France

Approaching Séance de Shadow II 1998, the visitor is aware of a blue glow emanating from a corridor-like space. Entering the room triggers a series of bright lights, casting shadows of bodies and objects onto a blue-painted wall. Artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster is interested in subjective experience, and the ways in which emotions and physical sensations are translated into visual form. Here the work is a living surface in which the movement of visitors is transformed into a theatre of performing shadows, making us aware of our bodies, and making us conscious of ourselves as actors as much as viewers.

Jeppe Hein
b 1974, Denmark

Jeppe Hein challenges the traditional idea that the visitor is a passive figure, silently contemplating the work of art. He makes us participants, willingly or not. Rotating Labyrinth 2007 is a mirrored theatre in the round, whose exterior surface reflects the surrounding artworks and architecture. When you step inside, the curved walls gradually align so that the rest of the gallery space is obscured. Surrounded by mirrors, you become at once actor and audience, viewer and viewed, and your reflected image is simultaneously fractured and multiplied. As a further twist, the slow rotation of the curved walls means that you leave the work from a different part of the space to the one you entered. 

Renata Lucas
b 1971, Brazil

Brazilian artist Renata Lucas specialises in interventions in the physical space of the gallery or its surroundings, so that visitors, residents or passers-by experience a familiar environment anew. For her work for The World as a stage, entitled The Visitor 2007, she has planted a section of a forest in the formal garden situated between the museum and the river. This motley assemblage of firs, holly, ferns and undergrowth disrupts the existing, neatly ordered rows of trees, ignores the limits of the flowerbeds, and seems to be moving towards the museum itself. 

Rita McBride
b 1960, USA

Arena 1997 is a large fibreglass seating structure that mimics the layout and scale of an amphitheatre or sports stadium. The gallery floor that it encloses is transformed into a performance space. Visitors can take the role of a spectator, but by walking through the space they become performers as well. Arena was designed by artist Rita McBride as a mobile structure, a series of identical modules that can be installed temporarily in different spaces. It was constructed using sturdy but lightweight industrial materials that allow it to be easily transportable. Originally conceived for a museum in Rotterdam, it has travelled extensively. Placed at the heart of The World as a Stage, it will provide a platform for live events and performances during the run of the exhibition. 

Roman Ondák
b 1966, Slovakia

A series of drawings, each made by a different non-professional artist, show a man wandering through the empty gallery spaces of Tate Modern. The figure is intended to depict the Slovakian artist Roman Ondák, and is based on a verbal description of him given to each of the individual artists by the exhibition curators. The title, I’m just acting in it 2007, can be read as a reflection on Ondák’s ambiguous role as the creator of this art work. Ondák’s work is usually performed or produced by a third party. His instructions to his collaborators are specific, but allow space for them to contribute their own personal interpretation. In this case, the work emerges from a complex dialogue in which artist, curator, sketchers and viewer all participate. The video Resistance 2006 documents a performance for which the artist invited certain people to attend a gallery opening with their shoelaces untied. This quiet act of non-conformity remains ambiguous, suggesting a protest against (or for?) something we can only imagine.

Markus Schinwald
b 1960, USA

Markus Schinwald’s work focuses on the body. In particular he studies movement and expressive gestures, and the ways in which these are governed by props, prosthesetic attachments or clothing (he originally studied  fashion design). The figures in his films and performances represent bodies without emotion, personality or psychology. Taking these concerns a step further, he has made a number of life-size marionettes, which can be seen as a prosthetic substitution for the whole body. For The World as a Stage, he has fabricated an inhuman and unsettling new marionette that periodically jerks into life.

Tino Sehgal
b 1976, Britain

Tino Sehgal’s works are devised as personal encounters, in which ‘interpreters’ follow his oral instructions to enact an ephemeral but infinitely repeatable action directed towards the individual visitor. In the past, the interpreters have included dancers, singers, museum guards and children. Each work exists only in the unique moment between interpreter and visitor. Sehgal does not allow his work to be recorded or photographed; even the instructions cannot be written down.

Catherine Sullivan
b 1960, USA

Catherine Sullivan initially trained as an actress, and is best known for theatre and video work that explores the conventions of performance and role-playing. Her video installation The Chittendens: The Resuscitation of Uplifting 2005 was made in collaboration with the composer Sean Griffin, who wrote the score. It features 16 actors dressed to represent stereotypes from nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. The actors follow a series of behavioural patterns, gestures or movements devised by Sullivan, which are composed into sequences that can be performed like a musical score. By focusing so intensely on acting technique, and isolating actions and emotions from their original context, Sullivan reveals the raw artifice underlying the naturalistic surface of performance.

Mario Ybarra Jr
b 1974, USA

Sweeney Tate 2007, named in homage to the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, is a recreation of a barbershop. All the traditional trappings are here: a checkerboard floor, mirror, barber’s chairs and even a striped red and white pole at the entrance. There are magazines, a waiting area and images of hairstyles. The installation is like a stage set awaiting its performers, highlighting the role of the barbershop as a place of social interaction where news is exchanged and opinions voiced. It is modelled on a real former barbershop in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, where Mario Ybarra Jr and his wife Karla B Diaz opened an art gallery. The artist will invite barbers to show off their skills here, leading to a one-day barbers’ competition.