Wednesday, 15 August 2012


       The Tanks in Action
Tate Modern until October 28 

For 15 weeks we can wander inside The Tanks, a vast raw industrial space, all stark lighting and polished concrete floors. The Tanks sit beneath what will be a 10-storey extension to Tate Modern topped by a terrace overlooking St Pauls Cathedral, being built because the present building attracts nearly 5 million visitors a year, double the number it was designed for.

 Meanwhile we have The Tanks In Action, a festival of 'non-marketable' art works such as live performances, installations, film works, talks and symposia. It’s said that economic austerity and inflated art market prices have produced a backlash in their favour.
The Crystal Quilt 1985-7 is an art work which intervenes in social and political questions. It focuses on older women and the way they are portrayed. It culminated in a performance on Mothers Day 1987 in Minneapolis, where 430 women over 60 became a 'quilt', emblematic of work which has for centuries united women of different ages, classes and races. They sat 4 to a table in a patterned arrangement on a large rug, changing the position of their hands every ten minutes to echo the shapes of different quilt blocks. Some of their personal memories and reflections were woven into a soundtrack.  What the audience sees now is a lively, fast and quixotic video, a documentary, quilt, photographs and sound piece.
The work raises the question as to whether art can change society. And if it does is it still art? Something like this is being discussed post- Olympics, when tens of millions of viewers shared new and challenging images of what it means to be a member of the human race.

Lacy, 66, wants to create a new work in the performance space to celebrate the stories of older women in Britain, whose issues may be very different, such as access to digital media and concern about the climate/environment. Why not a ‘Granny Flash Mob’, usually associated with youth and spontaneity? Email if you would like to take part.

Alex Rotas has an exhibition at Murray Edwards College Cambridge (used to be New Hall) showing photographs of women athletes in their 60s, 70s and 80s still competing in international competitions. She remarks that the women showed their age but still looked outstandingly alive and vibrant. is an interesting interview with the artist by Caitlin Hayward-Tapp

At the entrance to The Tanks are sticky labels with questions like: How Can Art Change Society? and What is the Role of the Audience? Unpeel them and stick your answers on the wall.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


The moment you see The Trophy you are glad it is inside a glass case. It's a complex kinetic sculpture, bearing a passing resemblance to the pictures of the machine which was recently sent on a jaunt up to Mars to discover signs of life. This alarming robot is the goddess Diana who, in Titian's Diana and Acteon,  is distressed and vulnerable, having been spied upon by the unfortunate Acteon while bathing with her nymphs. In a later painting, The Death of Acteon, she exacts a terrible revenge: he is transformed into a stag, then torn to pieces by his own hounds. Here he is represented by a bare antler carved out of wood.

The light at the end of a probe is unnerving: it spirals and judders and swoops. At times 'Diana' seems to be preening and caressing herself, beguiling, almost flirtatious.Then the probe swings out towards Acteon, now  teasing and playful. But the mood changes. It becomes menacing and monstrous. Acteon cannot flinch or move. Then another switch - she seems content, as if conducting an impartial post mortem on her miserable victim.

I'm aware that attributing human motives to non humans is something I've tried to avoid all my life. But, as the person I was with said, 'robots are to art this year what 3D printing was to art in 2011'. You have to see to believe.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a shadowy room which feels a bit like a corridor. It's hard to stay there with these three momentous Titians - Diana and Callisto, Diana and Acteon and The Death of Acteon. They need time and a good light but time is nibbled away by curiosity as to how three living artists have responded in the adjoining rooms. As well as Shawcross's Trophy, Chris Offilli's beautiful paintings in breathtaking colours transpose the classical world to Trinidad; and Mark Wallinger invites us to invade the goddess Diana's private space once again by peeping (one-eyed like the probe) into her bathroom.

Metamorphosis is a remarkable exhibition. A bit of a fairground. To celebrate the bringing together of these three Titian paintings, (two of which have been recently acquired), the help of not only artists but choreographers, composers, musicians, designers and poets has been called upon. We are invited to listen to poetry as well as inspect costumes, installations, set designs, paintings.

On the way out is the small gallery cinema showing clips from the ballets and a number of poets reading their specially commissioned work. (Patience Agabi, Christopher Reid, Seamus Heaney and Sinead Morrissey are the poets who get my vote). You can buy a beautifully illustrated book of the poems together with an essay on Ovid, Titian and English Poetry, and images of all three  Titian paintings. 
Metamorphosis: poems inspired by Titian, published by The National Gallery, only £8.

You can also get a stunning image of Trophy, of the Titian paintings, and much much more if you follow the links on

Saturday, 4 August 2012


Thanks to the Guardian series Olympics on Art  for this picture

Richard Wentworth gave up making sculpture for a while in the 1970s, thinking it had become 'as dry as broken biscuits'. Fortunately he changed his mind. This is the man who reminds us that an object has a beginning a middle and an end . You select it, use it - and walk away. Closure. But a work of art is unfathomable and you can interact with it forever. He takes the hundrum, the quotidian,and makes us think again. At a Tate study day he casually observed ' a plate is the only object where you get your own and the minute you have finished with it, it becomes someone else's' You can see a couple of examples of his witty and refreshing sculptures in Blog 77.

Recently he was on a camping holiday  - a habit of 30 years - and he took this photograph. My experience is that camping draws you into an intimate world where warmth and water, toilet blocks and torches become as life-enhancing as birdsong and sunsets and dew on the grass... Meanwhile world events happen on another planet. 

He was invited by friends to watch some Olympics. 'Catching sight of television in bars is the kind of glimpsing I enjoy – images, languages and 'events' all arbitrarily associated with time and displacement...The latch on this door will remind me of the warm domestic afternoon in early August 2012 when our friends invited us to watch London as a site of Olympic spectacle. An odd thing if you know the city well, but much stranger if you are camping a long way away.'

The photo is a tease. You want to rest your eye on the star, the scarlet-clad genius known as Bradley Wiggins, a man in a million, who may vanish from sight in a few precious seconds. But the  latch and the overbearing nails are closer and more familiar. I watched the Olympic opening ceremony at a party with friends and family. The amazing spectacle was accompanied by a domestic soundtrack of explosive remarks, laughter, whooshes of appreciation, scraps of music identified by the cognoscenti, apologies for tears...I cannot think of one without the other.    for a large selection of images of his work