I first had a look around the Tanks at Tate Modern about three years ago, just before the renovations began. It was easy to see the potential in the cavernous, booming spaces, and there were even a few films installed to give an impression of how things would look. But there was an awful lot of work to do to make it suitable for showing art: the constant drip, drip of water, the dangerously uneven surfaces, the crime-scene-style yellow tape cordoning off dangling live wires overhead… I even saw the remains of a crab lurking by a shallow puddle. I kid you not.
Many months later and it’s a different story. The Tanks are proving to be one of the most exciting new art spaces in London, with an ambitious and varied programme of films, installations, live art and performances which in different ways draw the audience directly into conversation with the artwork. Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon has suggested that it is ‘the true meeting of artworks and audiences that will establish what the Tanks are and can be’. It’ll be interesting to see how visitors respond in these spaces which, a bit like the turbine hall, are both overwhelmingly large and somehow approachable.
Coming up soon is an eight-channel video installation I am not me, the horse is not mine by South African artist William Kentridge, which promises to make the most of the space. It’s an intriguingly bonkers idea drawn from Kentridge’s recent staging of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1930 opera The Nose, which is in turn based on an absurdist short story of the same name written almost 100 years earlier by Nikolai Gogol. In the story, the nose disappears from the face of a Russian official, only to reappear on the face of one of his superiors. [correction: it takes on a life of its own. As they do.] For Kentridge, The Nose is a platform for examining the rise and fall of Russian avant-gardes in the 1920s and 30s, both as a celebration of the flourishing of creative energies, and an elegy for their eventual demise.
The installation combines live action film, archival footage and stop-motion animation, and has previously been shown in conjunction with a performance by the artist. There’s more info about this and other work on this website from MoMA which was produced at the time of his excellent solo show there in 2010.
Back at Tate Modern, don’t miss the artist’s talk in the Starr Auditorium on Sunday 11th November, 14.00 – 15.30, £12 (concessions available) – for more info and to book tickets, take a look here.
Show: 11 Nov 2012 – 20 Jan 2013
Opening hours: Sun-Thurs, 10.00-18.00, Fri-Sat, 10.00-22.00