Liberate Tate performance @ Tate BritainPosted: April 20, 2011
Disclaimer: this is not an eyewitness account, but then an eyewitness account would be missing the point. This is a response to a press release and a news story.
By all accounts, the unendorsed performance went like this: two veiled figures poured an oil-like liquid over a naked man in the foetal position on the gallery floor.
The wider context for this was an exhibition dedicated to the human body, and this show, Single Form, is sponsored by controversial oil company BP.
The even wider picture is that one year ago a BP drilling mishap caused the deaths of 11 workers and spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Needless to say, the company does some other bad stuff: from drilling in the Arctic to risky tar sands extraction in Canada, the stuff of an environmentalist’s nightmares.
One way to offset such bad PR is to sponsor fine art: Tate say their arrangement with the corporation fits with their ethics guidelines, but has yet to disclose full details.
Well, I have not been able to talk about the performance and the photo without talking about the important message. So Liberate Tate has staged a properly good stunt.
Nevertheless, it looks like art. It features a nude and litres of paint. It was carried out in full seriousness. But when the performer got dressed, only a black stain remained.
Okay, so they hi-jacked the rarefied atmosphere of one of the UK’s leading art galleries for their own ends. But they appear to have got away with it and who else does that sound like?