Tate Modern is getting into the Olympic spirit with Undercurrent, a young people's festival which is part of the Cultural Olympiad. The upcoming art installation is aimed at getting young people interested in and involved with art. The exhibition forms part of the gallery's new space called the Tanks. Here, SLIK finds out what this entails and speaks with some of the people involved.
Artist Tracey Moberly's founded the Foundry, knits using real hair, makes her own bricks and travels the world creating art. Oh, and she's part of the Tate Modern's Undercurrent show. SLIK meets the industrious artist at uber-cool private member's club Shoreditch House.
A social commentator on society, as well as keen explorer of sub-cultures and identity, Tracey Moberley is a natural choice for Tate's Undercurrent installation. Tracey continues: "I was invited to take part because of my work with sub-cultures, counter cultures, new technology and mass participation, as this really fits in with what they are doing." Her installation will be global, immediate and spontaneous, with an end result not even she is able to predict. "My one day mass participation exhibition on August 24 will highlight the individuality and expression of young people, as a statement," Tracy explains excitedly. "It will be an action packed day; I am inviting young people from around the world: New Jersey, Uganda, Haiti, who will be sending - virtually - what is happening there right at that minute. This will all be projected live into the Tate, along with sound. I won't know where the different things will be coming in from."
She continues: "I think this project will help more young people visit galleries. Art and music are very important tools for young people these days, virtually all with a mobile phone will have a camera so everyone can be creative. Technology has definitely helped people's creativity - everything is art; people taking a picture of an autumn leaf for instance."
What are her plans following the Undercurrent installation? "Look at this," Tracey scrolls through her iPhone and holds up the stunning Instagram images of bananas and local African that form part of her next art work. "I am working with a young guy from Uganda who takes photos, such as bananas in different settings, using different apps. Nokia are sponsoring me with some great phones. The pictures are being printed onto canvas and will form part of a touring exhibition."
Technology and art is a combination Tracey is quite renowned for. Since receiving her first text message back in 1999, she has saved every single one (100,000+ and still counting). These texts formed the basis for the Text me Up! exhibition and book. Some texts, such as messages from famous friends including Pete Doherty and Tony Benn, were even displayed as artworks using finely stitched embroidery: the juxtaposition of a Victorian pastime versus a 21st century one. An ongoing project, the next stage of this texting artwork, called Text, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll, will focus on the texts that incorporate one or more of these words. Tracey must have been an enviable role model to her two sons as they were growing up; mingling with the famous, founder of ultra-hip venue The Foundry, making her own clothes as well as burning her own bricks. "If you can knit a jumper, you can build a brick wall," she reasons. "Different textures but same principle."
"I am doing embroidery of text messages for my next show and am getting some of them translated into local voodoo by someone in Haiti." Do people mind having their private messages made so public?
Tracey smiles: "I don't think my friends and family have been affected, and me neither; text is so instant! Plus you are so used to being on camera anyway!"
The instant nature of digital photography is an element that clearly interests Tracey, In particular the popular Instagram app. "I love Instagram!, she exclaims. "I started out doing lo res [low resolution] grainy photos taken by myself... Then I was out once with friends in the VIP part of the Koko club and I took a quick photo of Amy Winehouse as she walked past - a beautiful lo res image of her with pixie ears." It is not just the photographic results that interest Tracey, but the way these are shared. "On Facebook, suddenly this picture will come up and you look at it, and from that one you can see a different person's picture, and before you know it you are looking someone's family from some part of Papua New Guinea!"
In line with her interest in popular culture and technology, Tracey is active on Facebook, and even "likes" SLIK's own page (thank you, Tracey!). She attributes social networking sites with enabling people to be more creative and receive impulses and advice from others. "Anyone can be an artist as long as they are creating," explains Tracey. "Believe in your own way of doing things. Absorb what goes on around you, but have your own beliefs, or trails of what you are doing," she advises. "I am quite anti social networking sites because of the corporate ownership thing, but it's quite good to have that platform to get views from others."
Tracey must have been an enviable role model to her two adult sons as they were growing up; making her own clothes as well as burning her own bricks. "If you can knit a jumper, you can build a brick wall," she reasons. "Different textures but same principle."
TATE MODERN WANTS
MORE YOUNG VISITORS
Four years ago you could still smell oil, but now I can't smell any!"
, Tate Modern & Tate Britain's Convenor of Young People's Programmes describes Tate Modern's new gallery spaces - two subterranean former oil tanks.
Dubbed the Tanks, the new spaces will form the world's first museum permanently dedicated to live art, installation and performance, and will open on 18 July for a 15-week festival. "There is a move towards participation in the world of art, and this [the Tanks] is how galleries of the future may exist," Mark says.
Forming part of this festival is Undercurrent - an 11-day arts event specifically aimed at young people (16-27 August).
Mark explains: "The Undercurrent programme is aimed at the 15-25s and is all about live art; how audiences participate in and experience art and the Tate."
"The word 'gallery' might be considered offputting for young people, so it's called the Tanks. It is all about the space, and the artists are responding to this. The Tanks will ensure that it is a different experience, and there are so many ways young people can respond to the work." Mark continues: "Young people's cultural experience is more mobile, digital and information technological. This [event] is about how young people can bring their experiences into the art space and exchange knowledge."
Some 80% of the artists participating in the Undercurrent programme have been selected by the Tate Collectives - a group of young volunteers who curate around 16 events at the Tate every year, based on their own interests. There will be daily talks, specifically for young people, by artists such as Rory Glen, enabling them to put questions to the artists and learn more about art.
Mark displays clear excitement when talking about allowing young people the chance to get deeply involved with art: "The critical processes, the reflective narrative of art: these are transferable skills."
He believes the Tate has a key role in equipping young people with cultural knowledge. "The school has its role, but the informal learning environment, such as the Tate, also has a role to play. The Undercurrent programme is more about experiences and less about an exhibition - you can come here every day and have different experiences."
For the past six years, Mark has ensured that young people receive valuable art experiences at the Tate, drawing upon a varied background. Originally an artist himself, he used to work with "socially excluded" young people in Manchester's infamous Moss Side area, funded by the Save the Children charity.
"The electronic revolution has hindered culture," Mark opines. Technology is making people lazy - it stops them from venturing out there, experiencing things for themselves. Online activism and hacking are the most radical things happening right now." What is the future of art - what is the next big thing in 2012?
Mark looks excited. "Oh that's a good question! Watch out for creative collectives such as cross art platforms who put music, technology and visual arts together - they are the key to the future. Young people do that really well. They are real entrepreneurs."
Surrounding himself daily with the latest art works, what is Mark currently most excited about himself? "I love it when platforms cross," Mark smiles. "Crossing audio and visual is really special. British artist Mark Leckey is good - he mixes his musical genres, 3D art and 2D audio."
Artistic talents aside, Mark is keen to underline the wide spectrum of availability within the world of arts to any young person interested in joining. "This whole creative industry is massive and young people need to be part of it - they are the future creators and instigators. Creativity isn't just about making artwork but also about thinking/being/creating strategies."
Tate Modern - Undercurrents
"My lover says that I am the only adult who goes to the playground every day!" Leo Aseomota laughs. He is one of a plethora of exciting artists contributing to the Tate Modern's Undercurrent exhibition this summer.
Originally from Benin in Nigeria, multi-media artist Leo moved to the UK at 19. Now both his home and studio are located off the Holloway Road in North London. The studio has its own Facebook page whilst Aseomota himself is not as keen on social networking claiming "Twitter is for twits," and preferring instead to "off-load [his] thoughts on a massive chalkboard in [his] studio". Leo trained in film and photography, but the work has expanded to being multi-media as he has so many interests. The studio has its own gallery where he exhibits some of his work.
"I used to live and work in the same house but decided that I needed more space to work and less to live." Leo himself is so absorbed with his work that he does not venture out very often. He smiles: "Today is my day out for this week; I just met a friend for breakfast, now I'm doing this, and afterwards I will go to a bookshop across from Tate where I always go to look for philosophy and art books."
The inspiration behind his own artwork comes from "everywhere" and he explains that "nature features heavily." He adds with a slight sigh: "I wish I was better at maths - I would be a more complicated artist." In describing himself, Leo says that he is "either a lazy artist or a very organic one - I don't pursue ideas - they just happen! What excites me is to create something unique, something that I've found in terms of materials."
In his upcoming Tate installation, Count off for Eo ipso, he has opted for the two symbolic elements caline and chalk: "You normally associate black with Africa, but caline is white fossil from sea mammals, whereas coal is black and from Europe." His installation for the Undercurrent exhibition forms part of his Ens Project which first started life back in 2005 and is now entering its third, and final, phase.
Due to space limitations in the Tank (one third the size of the Tate's massive Turbine Hall), the performance will be a prologue and centre around a series of ritualistic actions carried out by a handmaiden played by Leo. The handmaiden, a genderless character, stands for, what Asemota terms "servance (sic), much like a nurse" explains Leo. The installation hinges on a confrontation between an EDM /duplicator machine and the handmaiden character.
"This is my first collaboration with the Tate Collective who will also perform in it, as six different characters," he explains. "It is all improvised. We only have one hour for the performance so there will be no rehearsals."
Leo's advice to anyone who would like to showcase their artwork is to be proactive: "Don't wait to be discovered - let them know you are there and that you have a project in their interest." He continues: "Don't email, that's like going to someone's house to sell them double glazing, it's cold-calling. Instead, find out who's in charge [of the gallery, museum etc.] and call them. As politely as possible!"
You can catch Leo Asemota's performance at Undercurrent on August 23, 9.00-20.30