Monthly Archives: July 2016

Tate Modern in May 2016

The new Tate Modern building* was inaugurated on June 17. I was there in late May and much still looked like a building site, here the turbine hall:

Tate Modern, May 2016 © Jan Oberg


The main exhibit at the time was “Performing For The Camera”; curator Simon Baker talks here about it (it ended in June). It’s about how we all act – more than ever today – in front of a camera, act differently from how we would otherwise have because there is a camera.

The exhibition is very well curated, the display logic and pedagogical – covering documenting events, performances staged to be photographed, photos of actions and creative work, self-performance and selfies à la Cindy Sherman, public relations, self-portraits and performing real life – as did Amalia Ulman on Instagram.

It raises the question – why do we begin to act when a camera is around? How has the camera been serving throughout modern times as a tool to document or create art works, performances in particular.

There is an excellent review in The Guardian by a critic, Adrian Searle, who is actually participating in one of the exhibited works in which he is watching a female artist undress.

Apart from insights into the history of art – through e.g. Yves Klein, Beuys, Keith Haring – and their relations to photography, this excellent exhibition kind-of tells you what lead us up to today’s fascination with the mobile, lightweight cameras: If it is there – and it always is today with almost everyone – let’s use it for something, be it documentary, selfies, experimenting and showing others not only what we do but also who we are.

The idea and quality of sharing hasn’t changed. The quantity in which we do indeed has.

Since you were not allowed to take photos – what a pity!! – here are lots of images from Google. I still wonder why the (paying) visitor cannot take pictures when every work is already on the Internet?

Finally, about this exhibition. It wasn’t the first time I encountered the black-and-white photographic works by Francesca Woodman – as remarkable as enigmatic self-portraits, staged but nothing of the snapshot selfie-type of today.

But it was the first time I found out that she did only a few hundred photos and then committed suicide in 1981 at the age of only 22. Continue reading