The Tanks: Art in Action at Tate Modern

By Rhiannon Starr | 18 July 2012
A photo of a line of performers in dance outfits linked by their arms on a well-lit stage
Boris Charmatz, Flip Book (1997)© Boris Charmatz
Festival: The Tanks: Art in Action, Tate Modern, London, until October 28 2012

The Tate Tanks open with the launch of Art in Action, a 15-week festival exhibiting live art, performance, installation and film work.

These former oil tanks - an architectural inheritance from Bankside Power Station – are enigmatic subterranean lairs: an inversion of the airy, classical galleries above.

A photo of a huge sky-lit hall full of populated tables covered in yellow and pink sheets
Suzanne Lacy, The Crystal Quilt (1987)© Suzanne Lacy with collaboration from Phyllis Jane Rose, Miriam Schapiro, Susan Stone, Nancy Dennis, and Sage Cowles
The Turbine Hall, renowned for its innovative installations, forms a bridge between the traditional museum displays and these underground arenas of performance and participation.

The circular architecture offers an intimacy for live performances, as the audience closes rank around the performance space to form a clandestine theatre-in-the-round.

The live programme opens with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s minimalist dance piece Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, first performed in 1982.

This is a precisely executed repetition of abstract movements, as the two dancers move in and out of unison. Experience the electrifying musical tension and resolute choreography from July 18-20, before Ei Arakawa takes up residency from the 24th until the 29th.
The first installation commissioned for Tate Tanks is by film artist Sung Hwan Kim, who has divided one tank into two distinct environments: one claustrophobic, one cavernous. Beautiful yet mysterious imagery flits across the screens, illuminating reflective surfaces nearby.

The eerie music and vocals which haunt the darkened spaces are courtesy of musician and composer David Michael DiGregorio, a long-time collaborator of Kim’s.

To provide historical context for these contemporary experimentations, seminal works from Tate’s permanent archives are also displayed in the form of documentary footage and reconstructions.

In 1987, Suzanne Lacy’s The Crystal Quilt was broadcast live on television and attended by more than 3,000 people. Today it exists in the tanks as a video and sound piece, along with photographs and the quilt itself. The recorded dialogue is woven together into a universal voice which addresses the cultural invisibility of older women.
In yet another dark chamber, two projectors face one another and emit sculptural beams of light. This is a reconstruction of Light Music 1975, an expanded cinema work by Lis Rhodes.

The juddering monochromatic lines feel archival; the freedom to disrupt the imagery by occupying the space feels contemporary.

Tate Tanks promises an unexpected encounter, left open to interpretation by the absence of prescriptive accompanying text.

This conversion is the first phase of the Tate Modern Project, a development which will culminate in an eleven storey extension. Designed by architect firm Herzog & de Meuron, it is expected to be complete by 2016.

More pictures:

A photo of two dancers in white dresses and trainers performing in a shadowy space
Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker Fase: Four movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982)© Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
A photo of a DJ twiddling buttons in front of a crowd in a room with dark blue lights
Infinite Kusama, Tate Modern (2012)© Richard Eaton
A photo of people sitting on the floor either side of a beam of light inside a dark room
Lis Rhodes, Light Music, Paris (1975)© Lis Rhodes
A photo of two young male performers wearing pink shorts in front of a film screen
Eddie Peake, DEM performed at Cell Project Space London (2012)© Eddie Peake
A photo showing a film still of a young woman whose face is overlayed with red and blue squiggles
Jeff Keen, Flik Flak (1964)© Jeff Keen
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