On INSIDE JOB, the first Tate Staff Exhibition and Biennale, Tate Modern, London August 2019
I: (THE BOOK)
We have seen Kubrick’s Monolith stand, sending Earth’s surrounding apes into frenzy;
Now that prehistoric stoked image sends London’s Tate Modern Gallery into view.
Its surface sheen only shines thanks to the support others give it,
By which I don’t mean its numerous proponents or sponsors,
But rather the workers within it, in guards and admin, artists all
In their own right, beating and painting the often stifled drum labelled truth.
For many years they have sought to express their work and life through wall flesh,
But celebrity’s crazed apes outside have been beating their own shallow chests,
Obscuring the blood that populates the veins of the building and renders it special,
An artists’ space run by artists through tightly structured bone makes skin crest:
Allowing it to become something else; in fact, a proper body organic,
A building truly alive in a bare space, where substance and style veterbrae,
Providing the public who come with an entirely new sense of being
Shadowed behind the prized pieces, there are other worlds and work on display.
The Tate Modern Staff Biennale is the exhibition that shows this.
A commune and collective made of those whose arms and legs work the Tate,
Underrated, at last anarchy attain the radical right of judgement
With INSIDE JOB, a curation of their visions and views for Art’s Sake.
Entropy Press’ handsome book introduces the project and details the struggle
That these workers within have encountered as they chiselled their way
Towards play. At a public meeting years back questions were put to Chris Dercon,
The then Director as to why the staff artists were bound by paid silence
And did not deserve their full say. The communication of art is what keeps art alive
In a building and a Gallery fuelled by new artists as opposed to stale appointniks
Seems best. But Dircon disagreed, citing the staff’s lesser value, and condemned
Himself between arse cheeks as his portrait in the book now attests.
It showed the problem for sure; a form of class struggle, in which those hype
Is made for, supercede those who make. And so a bright team was formed
To focus light on those caste in shadow, the Dircon damned who survive him,
Finding in team and twain fame’s fresh break.
Samanta Bellotta, Max Reeves,
Chris Brown, Andrew Wyatt,
Kenneth Price, Aimee Murphy,
Harry Pye, Izna Bandey,
Michael Freer, Tommy Douglas,
Forged the way,
Representing every department on hand
From Visitor Experience through to Art Handling and retail,
Their encouragement, work and passion now monoliths
Those stunned apes, who find no other reflection than theirs
Across the digital page and art market, as numbers banish brushstrokes
And the public pose darkens frames. The Book INSIDE JOB tells the whole story,
It ripples with life and love like a river coursing through stone, healing pain,
As finally the servants project the starting source lost to masters
And mistresses also of what and why true art is.
The book is a kiss
Bestowed on those who look at it, alive with the art of compassion
For what we see and decipher beyond the spectacle grown short sighted
In Art’s corrupted form of showbiz.
Gerry King sets the scene, filling us in on the struggle. It is clear at the start
There is movement in this anarchic movement of art. A school of like minded
Souls moving separately yet together, water within the stone of the building
That this tribute and tributary clearly charts.
Gallery Attendant Stanley Lench
Died in 2000. After years of mental health issues and struggle and a life lived
Alone he moved from mixing with the Sitwells to a chair before his own canvas,
From which his striking art blossomed, stained glass sharp but on cotton,
His fuse of colour, and abstraction and form charms the bone
That duly forms Inside Job and helps to create this new being
Within the Body organic of the housing self of the Tate:
Jennifer Voucher’s poem makes art from oblivion’s chasm,
Corey Samuel’s handwritten sign limits children but expands the methods
Of thought for The State. Cedar Lewisohn’s Box Droid and tale of Art’s making,
Contrast with Gary Miles long list of service.
Bonnie Wong’s long transitions and map cast fate’s die,
James Daley’s remarkable poems chase art from Caravaggio,
Via Holbein, Richard Mittens echoes Early Hockney, as does Harry Pye.
Bambth echoes Cage, capturing silence through city ruin,
Andrew Wyatt’s kitsch photos, and Lauren Hill’s jayclothed Mary Berry insult
Stir the mirth. Anna Titov’s portrait story enchants. Tom Hurley sketches in
A blank public. Adrian Shaw writes of movement from Brancusi and back
And forth toward Drake. Rebecca Hughes cites Yoko and yeses her own
Ono pieces. Rebecca Leach words the river. Steph Hadfield captures
Life and death’s ritual through Leah Kerr’s photos of her own installation and play.
Willkay’s joy comes from youth by citing his young daughter’s reaction
To the work he makes for her future, while Natasha Vassiliou traps nostalgia
Through forms of red and blue in her lens. The post colonial glaze is charted
By Miki Quddus. Francis Mercieca’s art spoons taste sensation
That Sarah Sparkes torn ghosts might defend. Summer Oxley tells the tale
Of the students debt and expulsion, her struggle to find somewhere
In which to create spears the truth
that beneath the pretence of the so called
Celebrated there are those in all art forms who can never perhaps
Quite break through. This is the problem we face. Nobody ‘out there’
Cares to value, or knows how to do so, preferring as they do,
Their closed shops.
But an exhibition is shore for all of the new goods on offer,
That if left can sour, once the rising price of the future exerts on those
Who try to ascend, Hell’s sparked cost.
Kate Tiernan moves through the forms and the air as she channels Nijinksy,
And the dance though art still continues through pictures of the annual
Celebration of Blake
in which the Poet Stephen Micalef reads
Along with Niall McDevitt, before Alex Wojcik’s photographs
Of the artists and the art that truly fight starts the tale.
The book celebrates and seems to hold life within it.
The administrators and attendants often sit there in silence
While the public and works gloam or glisten;
They are shining.
Through this handsome book’s glossy pages
That new light is breaking. No wonder in Kubrick’s film,
The apes fell to frenzy;
When something new happens, the old lose foundation
And empires arise.
II: (THE BIENNALE)
Having won the right to exhibit thanks to Reeves and co’s work
And new Director Frances Morris, thirteen thousand was granted
With which to mount the display. Barely enough to contain the world
And work that was needed, not to mention the hours
That those involved now exchanged.
But now each work wins its wall and we see the extent of the vision.
We witness the range of endeavour from photograph to trapped sound.
From feminist creed, to sexualised image,
From photo real painting to shards of clay, cartoon faced.
Here is all of art for the eye that strives to see observation
As a force itself and not background for a post or pose or wine glass,
Here is refinement next to the raw, the seminal and then the genital
Mounted. Here is the body prized after Dircon,
Framed as he is in the book by an arse.
Amelia McCreith’s abstract wool crenellates as it comforts,
Tom Granthams bacterial poster frames a marshland magazine for the Thames.
Matthew Southward’s absent men are glimpsed in empty boots
And two jackets. Polydeas’ citroen T-Shirts advertise ancient speed
Round lost bends. Leah Kerr’s wandering conscious extends the melted self,
A la Dali, but with a pinhole camera rather than the approximation of paint,
Gary Sollars CLASS QUEER, is an immaculately painted self portrait, its glare
Strengthens living that Olivia Milani’s Bladerunner style glaze soon shadows.
Max Reeves’ NOD, casts a homeless couple delirium lost within sunlight,
Their own darkness filtered through their separate mounts; bed fellows.
Izna Bandey’s UNTITLED amoebas id white on darkness,
Andrew Wyatt’s Ruby slippers apes Peter Blake by reducing innocence
Down through prized shoes. Hannah Causton’s Waking Dreams chart light
Through precise camera movement. Peter Thomas’ gallery photos
Grant the public gaze its full due.
Jaiwana Monaghan’s I AM MINE has a Gilbert and George style aesthetic;
Its feminist mantras soul placard for the female independence and fight.
Robert Reynold’s FLYING PAST LITTLE BEN renders bird as blot
Across airspace, a stain on seeing that seeks to contain rising flight.
Aphra O Connor, Pop Arts through half formed chicks or clay cosies,
Raxil4’s Turbine Tape loops return the ear to the realm
That Alexandra Kavoura and Vasileious Fountoukos LITTLE GREEN STREET
Extorts with its rueful celebration of Chaplin, Scherry Shi’s industrial
Triple Tryptych time travels to the Amerian West through eye spells.
Jumpei Kitoshi’s FLAMINGO embues the bird from blue texture,
That Pierre Julien also uses, as Collagraph plates produce prints.
Susan Thomas Seagulls, their rough sketched shapes snaring colour,
While Laura Menzies’ REMAINS shows skies crying through melted
Ice cream and cloud, to blued tints.
Michela Hughes’ casts her parents torsos at the time of their meeting,
From a Nottingam nightclub, in 1962, this remains:
The bound strands and strains that keep people together
And which join the eye of the artist to the public perception of frame.
Ignacio Miranda’s naked men fit into an envelope clearly handy,
Backed by blue glitter, the shimmer is silenced by Sally Hackett’s
Sculpted shard arguments. It is as if all of art is in this space
At each moment. Given the chance to shine these new artists
Can Biennale near and far.
There are many more on display, each a separate view on our cosmos,
From stars to scars lifted from the wounds of both wall and the word.
An exhibition, visual is also its own form of poem, in which the minds
And hands working for it radically redesign what’s absurd.
Today, its what we value; the famed with their diamond skulls
And spunked bedsheets, or the lazy lined on the small screen,
Or the big one too, come to that. In this raised room Biennale
The celebration of flesh now continues. Here are the tongues
Taste was made for, teasing the tit,
And you will in time capture dreaming and align it all
To the real. New blood now flows through the accepted body
And form of this building. What you see at first is mere surface.
And so start your scratching
It is only there from the inside,
That the broken skin truly heals.
David Erdos 30th August 2019