Ruth Buchanan born 1980 The weather, a building 2011

For The weather, a building artist Ruth Buchanan repurposed the familiar form of the museum audio guide. Rather than focus on works in the museum, the audio guide reflected on the museum as a space. Designed to be experienced by a small group of visitors (about sixteen people at a time), the tour was thirty-five minutes long and ran four times on one Saturday in 2011 as part of the Push and Pull Tate Modern live programme.

All the participants simultaneously listened to the audio guide on individual iPods using headphones. The tour began on Level 4 of the museum, at a window overlooking the river Thames. The visitors listened to a continuous monologue by Buchanan in which she encouraged the participants to observe museum spaces, as well as spaces around the museum, and how people moved in them. Each section ended when the monologue stopped, allowing time for the group as a whole to move to the next location while white noise played in the headphones.

At each stopping point white posters printed with text were displayed. These points usually offered vistas across Tate Modern and included a platform between two sets of stairs allowing a view onto the lower concourse, the external balcony looking onto the street below, and the large windows overlooking the Turbine Hall. The group alternated between standing and sitting on designated chairs, which made their collective presence in the gallery clear to onlookers.

Buchanan’s audio recording provided a choreographed route through Tate Modern, transforming the participants into a spectacle, as well as directing their gaze to other visitors. As the title suggests The weather, a building highlighted details usually overlooked in an art gallery. Consequently Buchanan’s piece focused not only on how the institution enables and encourages looking, through instructions issued through a guided audio tour but also encouraged participants to think of the museum as a space to be looked at.

The weather, a building was one of nine artist contributions to Tate Modern Live: Push and Pull (18–19 March 2011), which was based around Allan Kaprow’s performance environment Push and Pull: A Furniture Comedy for Hans Hoffman 1963. The subtitle of the piece referred to painter Hans Hoffman’s use of the phrase ‘push and pull’ to explain how a painter could create movement within a painting. Kaprow, by repurposing this phrase from its original application to painting and applying it to performance, transposed a theory designed for the flat canvas to an action-based work. Buchanan’s piece worked within this idea of reframing ideas and concepts through translation of forms, creating a tour of Tate Modern that focused on the space of the museum, rather than its collection of works.

Acatia Finbow
October 2015