February 20, 2017 - Tate Modern - Tate Research: Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art
February 20, 2017

Tate Modern

Joseph Beuys, Information Action, 1972. Tate Archive Photographic Collection: Seven Exhibitions 1972. Photo: Simon Wilson.

Tate Research: Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art

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Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art maps the previously little known history of Tate’s engagement with performance over the last 50 years.  

In the 1960s performance was seen as fundamentally different from the sort of art that could be collected or shown within art museums. It was live, and its ephemerality challenged entrenched notions of art based on artistic skill, medium specificity and market value. But today performance has come to be seen as part of a set of strategies available to contemporary artists, one that is not inherently different from other art forms and not at all beyond the bounds of what a museum can and should present to its publics. Performance—as live actions and repeated, captured and collected iterations—has become a major acquisition and display priority for Tate and other art museums around the world.

To map and investigate this shift in the place of performance in relation to art museums Tate launched in 2014 a two-year major research project in partnership with the University of Exeter with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project set out to trace the evolving nature of performance practices since the 1960s, as seen through Tate’s own history.

Now published on Tate’s website, Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art is a multi-layered exploration of the place of performance art and performativity in the museum. The lead essay by Jonah Westerman argues against seeing performance as a medium or genre and urges that it should be understood instead as an interrelated set of questions about how art relates to its audiences and the wider social world. The publication also provides many detailed case studies of individual art works and events, together with an interactive timeline. Bringing together previously little known audio, films and videos, photographs, and museum documents drawn from Tate’s Archive, the project reveals the richness and depth of the gallery’s engagement with performance over five decades, offering new insights into the museum’s role in framing and interpreting performance.

Academic Advisory Board
Claire Bishop, Professor, Contemporary Art, CUNY Graduate Center, New York
Adrian Heathfield, Professor of Performance and Visual Culture, University of Roehampton, London
Katja Kwastek, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Professor Ross Parry, Associate Professor, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

Research team
Acatia Finbow, Collaborative Doctoral Student, University of Exeter and Tate
Gabriella Giannachi, Professor in Performance and New Media, University of Exeter
Jennifer Mundy, Head of Collection Research, Tate
Jonah Westerman, AHRC Research Associate, Tate (now Fellow, Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Catherine Wood, Senior Curator, International Art (Performance), Tate

Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art is one of an ongoing series of online major research publications that aim to throw fresh light onto the art and artists represented in Tate’s collection. Other recent publications include Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, The Art of the Sublime and the ongoing series of In Focus projects.

For more details of Tate’s research programme see www.tate.org.uk/research and follow @TateResearch.

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