One million Tate visitors wowed by international performance art?

Joan-Jonas-Songdelay-1973.-Courtesy-lartista
Joan Jonas -still from Songdelay 1973 courtesy of the artist

The London Evening Standard ran a a piece on July 22 on the success of the “revamped Tate Modern drawing one million visitors in its first month” highlighting the decision to include more “international and performance art”.

Here is another piece of news. Investigation has revealed this tidal wave of aspiring art fans crashing through the Tate doors  and powering straight past a seminal film by the American doyenne of performance art, Joan Jonas, with an apparent total lack of interest. My video clip of the gallery visitors – https://vimeo.com/176335362 captures the degree of apathy that this work appears to create

The 18 minute film Songdelay (1973) was shot in New York in 16mm black and white with Jonas’s buddies taking on choreographed roles in variety of locations. The work’s main focus is to play with human movement within the constraints of straight lines and circles. In many respects it is an amateurish parody of a circus performance. An extended section follows the antics of a performer with two poles inserted like a cross through the arms and legs of their costume. (see above)  There is no attempt at a narrative and its fragmented editing demands the viewer’s concentration.   As I sat there on the beautifully upholstered leather banquette on the opposite side of the gallery it was obvious that this work  was not holding the attention of visitors for longer than it took them to walk from one side to the other. Like a static performer in a Susan Hefuna Crossroads film (see my previous post on her work)  I was an oddity among a sea of pedestrians.

I began to speculate on the curatorial decisions. Why this work? Why this location? Any ideas?

 

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