Performance and the new Tate Modern

‘How can one think of art institutions in an age that is defined by planetary civil war, growing inequality, and proprietary digital technology? The boundaries of the institution have become fuzzy. They extend from pumping the audience for tweets, to a future of ‘neurocurating’ in which paintings will surveil their audience via facial recognition and eye tracking to check whether paintings are popular enough or whether anyone is behaving suspiciously.’

Hito Steyerl, A Tank on a Pedestal: Museums in an Age of Planetary Civil War

In its interest in performance, the newly expanded Tate is claiming an institutional engagement with its archiving, documentation, collation and legitimation within narratives of art history. It probes important distinctions: between presentation and representation, enactment and interpretation. The Tate has justified its centrality at the heart of two systems, seemingly incompatible with each other: one is the necessary business-minded, profit-driven, economically fluctuating world of private sponsorship and the art market itself; and the other, an alignment with public accountability  – the institution as civic space. So is the Tate turning to performance not just to satisfy the necessary expansion of its art histories, and of contemporary narratives of art, but also to carve the space for public engagement and art as event? Is it trying to mediate between those two worlds by seeking spaces of encounter? So I begin with Hito Steyerl as a way of asking an old question: what do we demand of a contemporary art institution, when that institution positions itself as public without acknowledging with the wider infrastructures that challenge that identity?

You can read the full piece for Exeunt Magazine here.

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