Tate Britain

Liberate Tate Stages Performance at Tate Britain

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

liberatetatepartspermilliontatebritain2013-e1385473983967Fifty veiled figures dressed in black carried out a performance art installation entitled ‘Parts Per Million’ throughout a series of rooms in the ‘BP Walk Through British Art’ at Tate Britain during the art gallery’s official re-opening (Saturday 23 November 2013). The piece critiqued the role that Tate is playing in exacerbating climate change by bolstering the public perception of BP through its long-standing sponsorship relationship.

The art at Tate Britain was reordered chronologically this year. The Liberate Tate performance began in the ’1840′ room, when the industrial revolution started to significantly impact emission levels, to the present day room with contemporary art created as carbon dioxide levels reached an all-time high of 400 parts per million (ppm). Leading climate scientists consider 350 ppm to be what must be returned to in this century for earth to be safe for human life for generations to come. In each room the Liberate Tate performers arranged themselves in a different configuration and counted aloud en masse the increase in atmospheric carbon ppm during that time period.

‘Parts Per Million’ is the tenth performance at Tate by Liberate Tate: a group that has become internationally renowned for artworks aimed at ending the relationship of Tate and other cultural institutions with oil companies. One of the performers, Fiona Edwards said:

“Any celebration of British art that prominently bears the BP logo is also endorsing that company’s business model which explicitly involves the destruction of a safe, liveable climate. Tate Britain celebrates with a ‘House Warming Party’, but the presence of BP, one of the companies data shows is most responsible for climate change due to its carbon emissions, makes it more of a ‘Global Warming Party’.”

The national collection of British art housed at Tate Britain – art owned by the public – was rebranded the ‘BP Walk through British Art’ in May: in the very week it was announced carbon dioxide levels had reached 400 ppm. A report published earlier this week estimated that BP was responsible for 2.5% of global historic emissions.

Terri Fletcher of Liberate Tate said: “Tate’s vision statement says that it will ‘demonstrate leadership in response to climate change’. Yet oil companies like BP are actively looking for ways to expand their markets and find new reserves at a time when the world needs to be dramatically reducing the amount of fossil fuels that are being burnt. By actively promoting BP, Tate is positioning itself on the side of the fossil fuel companies that are actually creating dangerous climate change.”

There is growing alarm from artists, Tate members and visitors that Tate is providing support to a corporation creating climate chaos and forcing climate-conscious gallery visitors into an uncomfortable position if they want to enjoy art at Tate (the mission of the art museum is to promote public enjoyment of art). Last year Tate said in a reply to a freedom of information request that it had received more representations raising concerns about BP’s sponsorship than any other issue since the oil company became linked to the gallery in 1990.

Since 1990, when BP first attached itself to Tate and its collection, much has changed: the scientific evidence of climate change due to burning hydrocarbons and the negative social and environmental impacts of oil companies, BP in particular, is now clear and far more widely known amongst the public, including art lovers.

Tate has placed BP sponsorship “under review”. BP has dominated the Tate Members Annual General Meeting (AGM) for years. In 2012 Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota promised Tate members ethical alternatives would be explored so that Tate trustees had a choice not to continue BP sponsorship. A progress report is due at the 2013 AGM on 6 December.

Liberate Tate (www.liberatetate.org) is an art collective exploring the role of creative intervention in social change dedicated to taking creative disobedience against Tate until it drops its oil company funding. Contact: email liberatetate@gmail.com twitter @liberatetate.

The post Liberate Tate Stages Performance at Tate Britain appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

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BP Keeps Arts Sponsorship as Pressure Grows for Spill Damages – Bloomberg.com

June 18 Bloomberg — BP Plc, which has shed 45 percent of its market value after causing the U.S.’s worst-ever oil spill, said it will keep sponsoring the British Museum, the Royal Opera House, Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery in London.

“These are longstanding partnerships that we have with major cultural institutions in the U.K.,” BP spokesman David Nicholas said in a telephone interview yesterday. “They’re completely unchanged, as far as I’m concerned.”

BP Keeps Arts Sponsorship as Pressure Grows for Spill Damages – Bloomberg.com.

ashdenizen: representing the unrepresentable

In this guest post, Kellie Payne, reports on Bruno Latour's recent talk at the Tate.

The French sociologist Bruno Latour gave the keynote address at this month's Tate Britain’s symposium Beyond the Academy: Research as Exhibition. His address considered the environmental crisis as a particular challenge which would require natural history, art museums and academia to join forces. The challenge, he said, was that “climate change is currently unrepresentable”.

In an effort to address this, Latour has embarked on a number of projects. One is the School of Political Arts at the Sciences Po in Paris. The school, which will be formally launched this year, will bring together young professionals in the social sciences and arts to attempt to represent the political problem of climate change. Latour says the school will “not join science, art and politics together, but rather disassemble them first and, unfamiliar and renewed, take them up again afterwards, but differently.”

Latour is also working on establishing a new type of Biennale in Venice, which will incorporate social scientists into artistic production. By bringing together social scientists and artists, Latour wants to address these issues in new ways. He expressed interest in Avatar, calling it the first ‘Gaia’ film, beginning this task of rethinking the ecological crisis and exploring ways of making it representable.

His engagement with climate change includes his participation in the Nordic Exhibition of the year Rethink: Contemporary Art and Climate Change which was staged in Copenhagen during COP15. He contributed to the Rethink exhibition catalogue with the essay “It's Development, Stupid” Or: How To Modernize Modernization. It is a response to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Break Through – From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. In this essay, Latour argues that the separation of the subjective from the real into dichotomies such as 'nature' and 'culture' must end. In order to begin to tackle the challenges we are facing, we must acknowledge just how closely human and nature are entwined. He has given a lecture on ‘Politics and Nature’ at the Rethink The Implicit venue at the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art.

Latour spent most of his Tate talk discussing two of his previous exhibition projects which combined the talents of artists and social scientists. Both exhibits were produced with Peter Weibel at ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The first, Iconoclash (2002), which brought together a team of curators, including Hans Ulrich Obrist from the Serpentine Gallery, examined how iconoclasts are represented in art, religion and science. The second, Making Things Public, partnered artists with social scientists to create individual exhibits. The exhibition was centred on a number of themes: Assembling or Disassembling; Which Cosmos for which Cosmopolitics; The Problem of Composition; From Objects to Things; From Laboratory to Public Proofs; The Great Pan is Dead!; Reshuffling Religious Assemblies; The Parliaments of Nature. The exhibition sought to materialise the concept of a ‘Parliament of Things’.

Latour conceptualised his exhibitions as thought experiments, but found the exhibitions themselves to be failures, saying that most of the individual projects within the exhibition failed as works of art. The books that accompanied the exhibitions, in particular, Making Things Public, a large book created after the exhibition, were more successful.

This was one of the themes that emerged from the day at Tate: whether certain exhibitions work better as books. Latour said that working on exhibitions has been one of the most interesting parts of his academic life. Exhibitions, he said, have a different rhythm and intensity of work and creating the ‘thing in the space’ adds to intellectual life. But creating an exhibition must be different to writing. When exhibitions merely illustrate a point, no gain is made.

Latour’s interests have now moved towards ecology and the role of the arts in representing our environmental challenges and the need for artists and social scientists to collaborate on these issues. He said he himself is writing a play on climate change.

Kellie Payne is a PhD student in the Geography department at the Open University researching culture and climate change.

via ashdenizen: representing the unrepresentable.

Artists digging for victory part 2

This is from an article I have in this morning’s Observer magazine:

Flicking through a history of community gardening in America, Amy Franceschini discovered that between 1941 and 1943, 20 million Americans took part in the Victory Gardens programme, an initiative created to feed the nation during wartime.

“I was thinking, when have 20 million Americans ever participated on that scale besides sports – or shopping?” says Amy, nursing a cup of green tea in her studio, an expansive floor of a former warehouse. “And San Francisco was the most successful place for Victory Gardens. They took it on massively here.”

In a local newspaper she found a photo dated 18 April 1943. There, in front of the august neo-classical pillars and dome of the San Francisco City Hall, were row upon row of vegetables. “And I thought, ‘We have to have a garden in front of city hall again.’”[…]

“What artists do is seed things. They plant ideas,” says Michaela Crimmin, head of the RSA Arts and Ecology Centre. Which maybe explains why these cheap, relatively small-scale projects like Franceschini’s can have such an influence.

Harvesting food as art is growing in the UK, too. Patrick Brill – otherwise known as the artist Bob and Roberta Smith – currently features as one of the new generation of “Altermodern” artists at Tate Britain. In 2007, he created a work called The Really Super Market in Middlesbrough. Encouraging local gardeners, schoolchildren and farmers to grow vegetables, they turned the town centre into a giant farmer’s market for a day, an event that culminated in a community cook-in.

The idea took root. This summer, in east London’s Gunpowder Park, artists Amy Plant and Ella Gibbs are running a ramshackle Energy Café, using only renewable resources to cook organic food foraged locally, or supplied from within a six-mile radius.

Turner prize-winner Jeremy Deller initiated a 10-year project in Munster, in Germany, in 2007, giving all the gardeners on a community plot a large leather-bound diary in which to record their notes – whatever they wanted to write. In exchange for their participation, Deller handed each an envelope containing seeds of the dove tree. When planted, the trees should flower for the first time at around the point the project comes to fruition, at which time Deller will collect the diaries and put them in a library. “The gardens are a vernacular art work in their own right,” says Deller. “They’re homemade and made up as they go along. The people that tend them are thinking about colour and form.”

Meanwhile, for the past nine years, the artists Heather and Ivan Morison have been working on a garden and woodland in Wales – originally a community garden plot developed as a conscious echo of Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage in Dungeness. (Jarman, of course, was another artist who helped change the way we think about gardens.)

The rest is here.

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7 ways of looking at Altermodernism

WILLIAM SHAW: Taking a jaunt around some of the discussions thrown up by Nicolas Bourriaud’s Altermodern manifesto and exhibition at Tate Britain I found myself constructing a kind of Beaufort Scale of critical responses:

1/. The Thrilled. Kazys Varnelis, Director of the Network Architecture Lab at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture is positively inspired:

I’ve been immersed in writing lately, so this next exhibit slipped
under my radar, but Nicolas Bourriaud’s latest exhibit, the 2009 Tate
Triennial, is called Altermodern. Bourriaud’s manifesto can be seen here. Bourriaud’s one of the sharpest thinkers around today and this exhibit just cements my decision to explore network culture
in my next book. Bourriaud’s show marks a break with postmodernism
based on a new stage of globalization. As he writes in his Altermodern
manifesto: “Multiculturalism and identity is being overtaken by
creolisation: Artists are now starting from a globalised state of

I suppose this is the kick in the pants I need…

2/. The Engaged: The commentators on this post at Moot Blog jump at the mere mention of something post-post-modern, jumping into a debate about Po-mo and A-mo. 

Me thinks The Tate are being somewhat provocative.
Although you’re right, there’s some wonderful critiquing and
questioning of Post-modernism at the moment. There’s a big buzz around
‘speculative realism’, check out Graham Harman

Equally, probably one
of the most interesting engagements with modernism is the notion of
‘hauntology’— this might be what the Tate is tinkering with. Have a
look at this:


But please, no more modernism.

Nicolas Bourriaud is an interesting one. Well worth going to see.

3/. The Thoughtful: Michael L. Radcliffe of Artbizness suggests Bourriaud’s heart may be in the right place, he fails to live up to his own rhetoric:

all good shows (and it IS a good show) its one that I will need to
return to many times, and I may like completely different works for
completely different reasons.

But I guess the biggest obstacle of the altermodern idea for me is
that if you’re saying that you’ve learned from the postmodernist
critique, then why would you exhibit the majority of artists from OECD
countries? It’s not exactly a record of the marginalised and at worst
smacks of imperialism.  And I suspect the “creolisation” that Bourriaud
talks of as a part of altermodernism leaves no room for the poor or

4/. The Uncertain:  Dan Cull doesn’t know what to make of it but suspects it’s a Good Thing.

I am not sure whether this is a new theoretical current or not, and as
a fan of post-modernist thinking in a way I am not sure I really care.
What I do know is that the Tate have put together a show that I really
want to go and see… and this to my mind is a good thing.

5/. The Long Suffering: Laura Cummins in The Observer practically sighs out loud:

It is a dull show in the end, with few exceptions, just as
Altermodernism itself is not a very thrilling definition, or
redefinition, of where art may be heading.

It is by no means
certain, in any case, that any theory of art that can be made to
stretch all the way from Tacita Dean to Franz Ackermann is of much
ultimate value. Altermodernism does not work as an idea so much as a
web of observations, a web with a weaver at its centre. The real
hyperlink here is not the art, but Bourriaud himself.

6/. The Arch. Stewart Home. This one doesn’t boil down to a neat quote. Agitator/self-publicist Stewart uses quite a lot of space to say he thinks Bourriaud is a fop, a phoney and a figure of fun. He considers the whole Altermodern thing is a hilarious bit of trumpery; but then long ago Stewart championed Neoism, so for both conceptual and practical reasons you are advised to take everything he says as unreliable.

As a taster for their 2009 triennial  ‘curated’ by Nicolas Bourriaud
(AKA Boring Ass), Tate Britain hosted a series of talks concluding with
one this weekend by the International Necronautical Society (INS)….
[it goes on for a fair bit…]

7/. The Very Tediously English Indulging in Ritual Sneering at Frenchmen Who Use Long Words.  Coxsoft Artnews:

If you’re a pseudo-intellectual art snob who wants to irritate your gormless friends, tell them that Postmodernism is dead and the new in-thing is Altermodern, a word coined by Nicolas Bourriaud to categorize what Coxsoft Art calls Tripe. It’s also the name given to the fourth Tate Triennial,
which Nick curated and which will be inflicted on a gullible public at
Tate Britain from 3 February to 26 April. The Tate claims
the show will offer “the best new contemporary art in Britain”. Look at
this example! Expect the usual Tripe.

Never, ever trust anyone who uses the word “pseudo-intellectual”.

(I’d been aiming for 13 ways… but fell short.)

Photo: Giantbum Nathaniel Mellors at Altermodern courtesy of Régine Debatty

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