Artist Harrell Fletcher reflects on a recent project at Tate and demonstrates the value of participatory engagement and social practice.
OK—so a couple of curators, Catherine Wood and Kathy Noble, from the Tate Modern in London sent me an email asking if I’d like to take part in a new online performance series that they are organizing. I said, “Sure.” The idea: they select five artists a year for four years to do performances that happen in a small gallery in the museum with just one camera to record what happens. The performances are live and unedited; the audience watches on the web.
As it happened, I only had a few days in London before the performance. Generally, I like to collaborate with local people in wherever I’m showing: I make the structure and organize the project, but local participants fill in the content. I recalled seeing some amazing buskers (musicians playing for money in public) in the Tube stations the last time I had been in London; there was even a small classical orchestra playing down there one time. So I told the Tate folks that I would wander around in the Tube for a few days and select several buskers to perform at the Tate if they were willing. I kind of had it worked out that there would be one performer in front of each wall of the gallery and that I’d turn the camera towards the middle of the room after each one completed a song—sort of a live mix tape curated from the subway.