Patrick Staff born 1987 Chewing Gum for the Social Body 2012

To mark the 2012 opening of the Tanks, Tate Modern’s dedicated live art space, a number of artists working across film, installation, new media, performance and other live art forms were invited to present works. The displays comprised a number of historical artworks, as well as new pieces developed specially for the space. In addition, a variety of participatory and educational events were presented, including the symposium Playing in the Shadows, which took place on 26–27 October in the Starr Auditorium and was accompanied by a programme of four performances by Tina Keane, Patrick Staff, Kerry Tribe and Aura Satz in the Tanks. The symposium included talks and papers from a number of speakers, highlighting the work of scholars exploring expanded media and intersections between art, film and the live event. In particular, they focused on artists’ use of illumination and darkness, as a response to the unique spaces of the Tanks at Tate.

Patrick Staff’s Chewing Gum for the Social Body was developed specifically for the Tanks, and depended on a collaborative creative process. The piece began with a series of workshops with dancers and performers from a variety of backgrounds. The interactions and relationships forged in these workshops were then put on display in the Tanks. During the performance, participants moved around the space through improvised dance moves, while other performers recorded the action on cameras, the results of which were broadcast on screens arranged around the space.

Staff used the performance to continue his exploration into the creation of, and work within, different communities of people. Rooted in ideas around collectiveness, the work drew together live video, projection and sound mapping, all of which were actively used within the space of the performance, alongside live elements of improvised dance. Performers moving through the space, or at moments of rest, were often captured on camera by the other performers, and their images were projected onto screens.

Throughout the performance, rather than maintaining a clear demarcation between camera and performer, technology and body, Staff encouraged his performers to work with, for and against the cameras, visuals and sound projections, creating different social relationships with one another and with their viewers. As such, the technology was not simply there to document the work, but formed part of its creation. Staff was interested in the process of collaborative creation and particularly how these actions were sustained or changed by the process of working together. In allowing the projection and the live event to intersect, he created a social body through actions and their representation.

All four of the performances presented alongside Playing in the Shadows dealt differently with the nature of sound, light, projection and performance, pulling together issues raised in the symposium. The works allowed the audience to consider the theoretical arguments from fresh perspectives, and to experience a range of contemporary creative work investigating light and darkness, image and action.

Acatia Finbow
April 2016