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Tate Modern opens live art and installation space

LONDON: London’s Tate Modern Gallery has unveiled its first dedicated space to live art and installations as part of plans to explore new areas of visual culture like video, photography and performance art. Measuring 30 meters in diameter and seven meters in height, The Tanks are the underground oil tanks belonging to the converted power station that have been transformed into a sleek exhibition space for artists to showcase their work. They will open their doors to the public Wednesday.

“This is not a museum. This is not a gallery. This is not a theater. This is something different,” said Tate Modern director Chris Dercon, who believed the unusual shape of The Tanks will challenge artists to adapt and create new work.

The Tate Modern opened in the brickwork building 12 years ago but its huge central Turbine Hall, which houses temporary exhibitions, eats up a huge amount of available space. The museum has only around half of the exhibition space of galleries such as the Pompidou Center in Paris or MoMA in New York, which only draw around half the number of visitors as Tate Modern.

The tanks were decommissioned in 1981 when what was then the Bankside Power Station was taken out of service. The tanks have been converted by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog et Pierre de Meuron.

The conversion of the vast concrete cylinders are the first stage of the Tate Modern Project, a 215 million pound ($336 million) transformation which will see a new building added to the museum, helping to expand its size by 60 percent.

“The opening of the Tanks allows us to offer a different space in our programming,” said Dercon, “so that performance, sound, moving images and participation can carry as much weight as anything else we are doing.”

Among the artists on show this summer will be South Korean Sung Hwan Kim and choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who adapted her widely acclaimed 1982 performance, “Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich,” for the opening of The Tanks.

Kim chose to divide the East Tank, one of two circular former oil containers, into two spaces.

Among the works on display was “Temper Clay,” which focused on the theme of property by juxtaposing film of his parents’ apartment in a modern high-rise building with footage of their countryside home.

The exhibition, which runs until Oct. 28, is part of the London 2012 Festival bringing together an international program of performance, film, talks and live events to coincide with the summer Olympic Games in London.

The Tanks features established visual artists Suzanne Lacy and Lis Rhodes to help viewers to understanding the history behind live art and performance.

“We really wanted to set the older generations of artists ... in dialogue with what the youngest artists in the program are doing,” said Catherine Wood, the Tate’s curator of contemporary art.

“Performance isn’t just this thing that has been invented just now, and even though it’s about inhabiting the immediate moment, it hasn’t just emerged. It’s got a long history,” she added.

“This is really about being there, experiencing something extraordinary and new and ... that’s as much as artists are interested in as making something that lasts forever on a wall.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 18, 2012, on page 16.

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