Keith Arnatt

I Have Decided to Go to the Tate Gallery Next Friday


Not on display

Keith Arnatt 1930–2008
Text sheets, printed paper on board, and photograph, gelatin silver print on paper on board
Image, each: 510 × 407 mm
Transferred from Tate Archive 2010


I Have Decided to Go to the Tate Gallery Next Friday 1971 is a work that questions the difference between intention and decision. It first appeared as a double page spread in the magazine Studio International (vol.181, no.933, May 1971, pp.208–9) . The left-hand page contains writings by the philosophers Jack W. Meiland, A. Kenny and Brice Noel Fleming that describe the relation between decision and intention; the right-hand page is filled with a black and white photograph of a back view of Keith Arnatt as he walks up the front steps of the entrance to the Tate Gallery on London’s Millbank, seemingly enacting the work’s title. The version of the work in the Tate collection consists of two panels that contain the philosophical texts and a photographic panel showing the same image that had been published in Studio International, but not cropped as much. In addition there are two alternative panels that can act as a caption for the work – these present the work’s title in different contexts as a statement and as a ‘statement operative as art-work’. The text panels and photograph, taken together, act out the decision that either title-statement declares. The philosophical texts are used here by Arnatt to proffer an explanation of what it might mean 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.

In 1970, Arnatt admitted that he was ‘more interested in the decision to “act” in a certain way than in the actual outcome of the act’ (Keith Arnatt, ‘Decay’, Interfunktionen, no.4, 1970, p.30) – a focus that lies at the heart of I Have Decided to Go to the Tate Gallery Next Friday. Other works by Arnatt from this period, such as Art as an Act of Retraction 1971 (Tate P13140), take as their subject the act of making, where the realisation of that act places art in a fragile state of disappearance or non-being. In some of these works, the creative act becomes an act of not making art, as with the catalogue text Is It Possible for Me to Do Nothing as My Contribution to This Exhibition? 1970 (published in Idea Structures, exhibition catalogue, Camden Arts Centre, London 1970, unpaginated) or Art as an Act of Omission 1971 (Tate P13144). Such works question the creative act through definitions of intentionality and decision, a strategy also deployed by Arnatt’s decision not to make art for a specified period, as declared in a typewritten postcard he sent to the critic Charles Harrison in 1970: ‘10.9.70. 8.25pm. THE DECISION TO DO NO ART WORK FOR AN INDEFINITE PERIOD OF TIME IS THE WORK (the work ceases to exit upon production of a subsequent work).’ (Charles Harrison Papers, Tate Archive, TGA839.12.1.11.)

I Have Decided to Go to the Tate Gallery Next Friday was one of a number of existing materials that were proposed by Keith Arnatt at the time of his participation in Seven Exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London in 1972. For this it was exhibited with the shorter title, Tate Work. Other works that were exhibited alongside it included 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, Art as an Act of Omission 1971, Rejected Proposal for the Peter Stuyvesant ‘City Sculpture Project’ (For Cardiff City) 1972 (Tate P13141), Self-Burial (Television Interference Project) 1969 (Tate T01747, exhibited with the title The Disappearance of the Artist), 2448000–0000000 1969/1972 (described as ‘an “exhibition” of the duration of the exhibition by the following means: a digital count-down system will count down the duration of the exhibition in seconds’), Type-Token 1970, Art and Egocentricity – a perlocutionary act? 1971 and Tate Gallery Staff Exhibition 1972. The content of the exhibition changed during its run. Because of widespread power-cuts at the start of the exhibition, 2448000–0000000 was initially replaced by Tate Gallery Staff Exhibition, though this – a presentation of the staff cards of all employees of the gallery – was removed after three days and it is thought that 2448000–0000000 was activated on the seventh day of the exhibition. In their range, the works brought together as Arnatt’s presentation for Seven Exhibitions illustrate the move in his work from the making of situational sculptures to a documentation of actions 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 work was transferred from the Tate Gallery Archive in 2010.

Further reading
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.
Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2016, p.53, reproduced p.54.

Andrew Wilson
May 2010
Revised February and July 2019, December 2020

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