Up Hill Down Hall: An Indoor Carnival

Up Hill Down Hall: An Indoor Carnival

Tate Modern

Gia Wolff, Canopy, 2014. Digital drawing for Up Hill Down Hall, Turbine Hall installation; includes sketches from No Black in the Union Jack by Marlon Griffith. © the artists.

August 14, 2014

Up Hill Down Hall: An Indoor Carnival
As part of BMW Tate Live 2014
Saturday 23 August 2014, 15–18h 

Tate Modern
Turbine Hall
London SE1 9TG


On Saturday 23 August, coinciding with the Notting Hill Carnival, Tate Modern presents Up Hill Down Hall: An Indoor Carnival, a new performance commission that offers critical and artistic perspectives on Carnival.

Informed by the history of the Notting Hill Carnival as it reaches a milestone half-century of existence, Up Hill Down Hall showcases performances for hundreds of participants by artists Hew Locke and Marlon Griffith against the backdrop of an architectural design by Gia Wolff and a soundscape by Dubmorphology (Gary Stewart and Trevor Mathison) and with a special intervention by Central Saint Martins Fine Arts students and recent graduates.

Initiated after curator Claire Tancons‘s longstanding engagement with Carnival across art history, performance theory, postcolonial studies and curatorial practice, Up Hill Down Hall engages with Carnival as ritual of resistance, festival of otherness and performance art, and with the Notting Hill Carnival specifically as a contested site from which to reflect on notions of public space, performance and participation. It conceives of Carnival less as a theme than a medium and indeed introduces practitioners across disciplines who draw from Carnival as a medium of artistic production and a form of social and political address.

London-based artist Hew Locke creates his first performance work, Give and Take, an exploration of the changing spatial politics of the Notting Hill neighbourhood. Give and Take both critiques the gentrification of the area and embraces the Brazilian influence on this historically pan-Caribbean festival. A piece about the tensions between residents and street revelers it asks “Who owns the streets of Notting Hill?” Locke’s first carnival-inspired performance is the outcome of decade-long meditations on Carnival in Guyana and London and continued engagement with carnival aesthetics that have long suffused his work. Give and Take is realised in collaboration with the Batala Samba-Reggae band.

Trinidad-born, Japan-based visual artist Marlon Griffith presents No Black in the Union Jack, a performance inspired by the 2011 London summer riots. In this piece, Griffith fuses the nationalistic Caribbean motif of the humming bird with anti-riot police shields in body adornments that blur the boundaries between masquerader and police officer. Also a trained masman—the Trinidadian colloquial for Carnival designer—Marlon Griffith has a longstanding experience in creating carnival performances both for the Trinidad and Notting Hill carnivals. Griffith is collaborating with Elimu Paddington Arts Mas Band for which he designed two carnival bands in the past.

Inspired by extensive student research into the socio-political history of the Notting Hill Carnival and the politics of space and location, The Sky is Dancing is a special intervention that responds to wider critical debates about public art and ceremonial practices that have influenced and been influenced by carnival as a cultural and artistic form. The Sky is Dancing project has been produced under the auspices and with the participation of UAL’s joint Chairs of Black Art and Design, Sonia Boyce and Paul Goodwin in collaboration with Anne Eggebert and Stephen Carter of the XD Pathway at CSM.

London-based sound artists Dubmorphology remixes live and recorded tracks of steel pan and calypso, reggae and punk with texts relating to the Notting Hill Carnival from Linton Kwesi Johnson to Zadie Smith, and elements from Gary Stewart’s ongoing oral history archive of the Notting Hill Carnival. The live remix, titled Sonar, is played through a customised sound system on the bridge that crosses the Turbine Hall, alluding to sound system set ups under the Westway Bridge during Notting Hill Carnival.

Using Oscar Niemeyer’s carnival stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the world-famous Sambadrome, as reference, New York-based architectural designer Gia Wolff transforms Herzog & de Meuron’s architectural space of the Turbine Hall into a carnival space with Canopy. A deconstructed canopy of ropes hung above and under the Turbine Hall bridge, the monumental installation enhances the Turbine Hall’s unique street-wide scale and entices mass public processional performance.

While signaling the importance of Carnival as a performance medium with mass appeal in the culminating era of the massification of museum culture, Up Hill Down Hall inscribes these works within the politically conscious cultural legacy of the Notting Hill Carnival, born of Caribbean migration and metropolitan accommodation to the aftermath of colonialism, resistance to racism and the mainstreaming of multiculturalism and, ultimately, developed through cultural ingenuity and artistic creativity at the forefront of the formation of postcolonial British culture.

Up Hill Down Hall: An Indoor Carnival is curated by Claire Tancons in discussion with Tate Modern’s curatorial team and in collaboration with the artists in the project with support by students and recent graduates from BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, UAL: University of the Arts London along with members from the Notting Hill Carnival Community including participants and volunteers from Elimu Paddington Arts Mas Band and Batala Samba-Reggae percussion band. 

Give and Take by Hew Locke received additional support from Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, as part of En Mas’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean. The exhibition, which will open in 2015, is curated by Claire Tancons and Krista Thompson for the Contemporary Art Center (CAC), New Orleans and co-organized as a traveling exhibition by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. The exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award with additional support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

BMW Tate Live is curated by Catherine Wood, Curator, Contemporary Art and Performance, Tate and Capucine Perrot, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern.


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August 14, 2014

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