The Tate has opened the world’s first ever museum space for performance art. Can subversive art can survive in comfortable surroundings?
“DEM” by Eddie Peake, performed at Cell Project Space, London: Peake is just one among dozens of artists involved with the Tate Tanks
In July, the first ever museum space dedicated to performance art and video installation opened in London. Carved out of the subterranean concrete bunkers that once stored oil for Bankside Power Station, Tate Modern’s “The Tanks” have a raw industrial aesthetic that fits a genre of art associated with underground venues.
“Genre” is perhaps a misleading term for a branch of art that has as many guises as there are ways of performing—dance, drama, poetry, music and ritual. But the phenomenon that originated with the anarchic antics of the Dadaists in Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire during the first world war does have a distinguishing feature. Despite its internationalism—the term has been applied to artists from Asia to Europe to North America—performance art shares the language of protest.