Liberate Tate: gestural notes for ‘All Rise’
Liberate Tate have often brought unwanted items into Tate gallery spaces as part of their unsanctioned performances to complicate the presence of BP at Tate. Ten litres of an oily like substance, a naked man covered in oil, and a sudden oily deluge from paint tubes. A 60kg block of Arctic ice, an alternative audio guide, and a 16.5 metre, 3 tonne wind turbine blade. The latter item was in a work called The Gift, a symbolic gesture of giant proportions. Their most recent piece, All Rise, sees a return to the body as the object in the performance, and the gesture as a thousand whispered words placed hauntingly in Tate Modern over the course of a week.
All Rise as gesture operates interestingly as an act which connects the live events of elsewhere and history with the present, dissociated moment. It interrupts the theatre constructed by sponsorship to cover up harm caused by BP and opens discussion around justice and accountability after the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster inside the gallery.
Liberate Tate described the piece as follows:
“On the third anniversary of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill we, Liberate Tate, stand witness to the BP trial in New Orleans with a performance at Tate Modern. For five days we whisper extracts from court transcripts throughout the BP sponsored Tate.”
Fifteen performers over the course of a week spent an hour in the gallery each afternoon whispering the court transcripts while the trial of BP continued in New Orleans, Louisiana. Each performer was fitted with a ‘snorricam’, a piece of apparatus to hold a wide-angle video camera at eye level, transmitting video of the performances via three screens on a web page that is still available for viewing.
The whispered word becomes the gesture in this piece, and its echoes find resonance beyond the walls of the gallery to wherever in the world a listener tunes in. Drawing a parallel between the hermetically sealed courtroom and the white cube gallery, writer Sarah Keenan asks ‘What does justice sound like?’ The court may not find any real accountability for a corporation like BP, for whom disaster is fundamental to its extractive industry. And the gallery so far continues to close its ears to the calls from members, artists and the public to drop the oil sponsor. The words and experiences of the communities most dreadfully affected by the spill are absent from the transcript, unlike in Liberate Tate’s alternative audio guide, Tate a Tate, which brings the stories of Louisiana fisher-folk and First Nation tar sands activists into the gallery in a sound artwork.