In today’s media-saturated environment, where attention spans come at a premium, it seems that luring in the under-35s calls for the chance to chill out with lattes in specially designed hang-outs, and the opportunity to cut through all the white noise with something new for the senses. Today, experiential entertainment is the new frontier: Museum-goers want to be included. Artist
, who is heading up the first leg of the Tate Modern’s artistic collaboration program, Tate Exchange, feels the initiative will prove Tate can be interactive and exciting, “rather than a storehouse for old stuff.”
At a time when concerns are being raised about the sustainability of the voracious pace of global museum expansion (a recent report by The Art Newspaper revealed that U.S. museums spent $5 billion on expansion projects between 2007–14, in spite of a shrinking economy), the Tate’s branding as a cohesive and accessible public space falls well within the official government line, which stresses the importance of culture being accessible to all. In its 2015 Diversity Action Plan, the Tate has also specified the importance of reaching a broad audience, if the museum “is to remain relevant to contemporary society.”
This is why performance is so important. The opening in June will see a three-week live art program, including a specially commissioned 500-voice-strong choral work, as well as performances by sound artist
and Romanian duo
and Manuel Pelmus. Over 3,000 school children are to attend a special preview. Perhaps the most hotly anticipated element of the expansion, the Tate Tanks—the museum’s primary platform for performance—are set to reopen. Originally the power station’s oil chambers, the raw industrial spaces were first used in 2012 for a 15-week program of live events. They are considered to be the “world’s first museum spaces dedicated to live art and performance,” and last year’s well-attended collaboration with Boris Charmatz / Musée de la danse proved just how popular the art form is.
“The space of the museum allows for a different kind of exploration of what ‘performance’ means in the field of art,” says Wood, “how it activates and challenges that field, and how art often ingests other disciplines as readymade formats. I think people are drawn to performance because it offers a sense that things might be changed, re-invented, built from scratch—and that they could be part of it rather than simply looking at it.”