Press Release

Tate announces new fund for staging performance from the collection

Tony Conrad Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain 1972 (c) Tate

Tony Conrad Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain 1972 (c) Tate

Four major works to be staged in 2019 as Tate expands its performance collection

Tate today announced a new fund to enable the staging of live works from the national collection. This coincides with Tate’s ongoing research project focusing on recent and contemporary art, including time-based media, performative, live and digital art.

In 2019 Rose Finn-Kelcey’s Bureau de Change 1987 will be presented at Tate Britain, Kemang Wa Lehulere’s I cut my skin to liberate the splinter 2017 and Allora and Calzadilla’s Balance of Power 2007 will be shown at Tate Modern, and Tony Conrad’s Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain 1972 will be staged at Tate Liverpool. These performances demonstrate Tate’s commitment to acknowledging the significance of performance within modern and contemporary art and to further embedding research in the museum programme.

The presentation of the three works at Tate Modern and Tate Britain is supported by the Performance Activation Fund. This fund will bring to life the growing number of performance scripts, scores and installations that have been acquired by Tate, allowing gallery visitors to experience them as part of the free collection displays.

The research related to the performance of Tony Conrad’s work is part of Reshaping the Collectible: When Artworks Live in the Museum, a major project funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The research project focuses on works which challenge the practices and definitions of the museum and explores what it means to collect and conserve not just the documentation of a performance, but the performance itself.

Conrad’s Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain will be performed on 17 May and will provide the first opportunity for Liverpool audiences to see this rarely-staged piece. It will take place during LightNight, Liverpool’s free one-night art and culture festival. It comprises the projection of four film loops containing the same alternating pattern of black and white vertical stripes. A drone sound is produced on amplified string instruments as the frames of each projection begin to overlap and create new optical effects. The work is performed by three musicians on violin, bass and a Long String Drone alongside a projectionist.

Conrad encouraged the use of local musicians, or those with an existing connection to the organisation, to retain the spirit of collaboration from when the work was first created in New York in 1972. The performance at Tate Liverpool will act as a moment for the transmission of knowledge from first- and second-generation collaborators across a 45-year period. It will include local musicians accompanying a recording of Conrad, who is no longer alive, on violin. Documentation created and refined in preparation for the performance will inform the future conservation and display of the work, helping to build knowledge of the work as it enters Tate’s collection.

Rose Finn-Kelcey’s Bureau de Change 1987 opens today at Tate Britain to coincide with The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain (27 March – 11 August 2019). The live installation consists of £1,000 worth of coins laid out on the floor in the image of Vincent van Gogh’s iconic Sunflowers, overseen throughout each day by an actor appearing as a guard in period uniform. A CCTV camera films the coin-picture, transmitting the image to a monitor in the space, while visitors view the tableau from a platform much like an auctioneer’s podium. The work was made in 1987, after one of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings was sold at auction for a record £24.5 million, and it addresses the movement and transfer of different kinds of value.

Kemang Wa Lehulere’s I cut my skin to liberate the splinter 2017 will be presented in the Tanks at Tate Modern from May to September and activated in a series of performances on 3, 4 and 5 May. This large-scale installation comprises found objects which have been transformed into an orchestra of make-shift sculptural instruments. For the performances, Wa Lehulere worked with theatre director Chuma Sopotela to choreograph a series of actions borrowed from children’s games. The score was inspired by Cosmic Africa, the 2003 documentary about Thebe Medupe, a South African astrophysicist who travelled across Africa to document the continent’s ancient astronomy history.

Allora and Calzadilla’s Balance of Power 2007 is a form of ‘living sculpture’ that involves three yoga practitioners wearing military uniforms executing a sequence of yoga ‘warrior poses’. Taking place intermittently in locations around Tate Modern this autumn, the work juxtaposes the quest for internal balance with the blind adherence to standardised codes of behavior.

Maria Balshaw, Director, Tate said:

'Tate has the largest collection of live performance work in the UK and one of the most significant in the world. The conservation of time-based media, performative, live and digital art is an evolving process that requires academic rigour to ensure both the legacy and staging of each piece is innovative and world-class. The Performance Activation Fund and Reshaping the Collectible: When Artworks Live in the Museum mean that Tate can continue to lead the way in collecting and staging performance works.’