Sixteen artists will be presenting a series of installations, performances and films to explore the relationship between visual art and the theatre in a new show at Tate Modern, The World as a Stage.
“It is an examination of theatricality within the gallery, and how that frames the viewer’s presence,” says Catherine Wood, curator of contemporary art and performance. “The artists we’re working with are visual artists who are playing with their own fantasies of what theatre is. It’s a way of expanding art practice more than truly connecting with this whole other discipline.”
The centrepiece is the US artist Rita McBride’s Arena, a sweeping wooden arc of raked seating that cuts through the gallery space and provides, crucially, a dual functionality central to the show’s concept.
“While it looks very much like an updated version of a minimalist sculpture, it is also a site for things to happen,” says Wood. “We’ve collaborated with the German performance collective Discoteca Flaming Star, who use the arena to do four- or five-hour pieces. It’s great to be able to bring performance work into dialogue with gallery practice, asthat reflects how so many artists are working now.”
Other exhibitors include Pawel Althamer, whose clandestine performance as a city worker in Frankfurt’s commercial centre, Self-portrait as a Businessman, makes a distinct nod towards Augusto Boal’s “invisible theatre”.
The German artist Ulla von Brandenburg presents a huge reproduction of the original stage curtain made for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, while Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave documents the artist’s re-enactment, with more than 1,000 participants, of a major flashpoint in the 1984 miners’ strike.
“Deller described it as a post-mortem for the real events that had happened,” says Wood. “Lots of the miners he met said they’d never had a chance to talk through what went on. This is how artcan become, like theatre, a cathartic process.”
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