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What is the Building Calling For?, Tate Modern, 2018

A vocal spatial action – view film

Location: Tate Modern, 5th December 2018. Facilitator: Hannah Davey (Liberate Tate/Greenpeace). Documentation: 8 minute film. Series: Days of Action. #daysofaction #whatisthebuildingcallingfor

‘What is the Building Calling For?’ is a vocal and spatial action. The question becomes the content for a collective address to the building relayed through its foyers, landings and stairwells by participants using the ‘people’s microphone’ (human amplification of a speaker’s voice through repetition of words by other voices at the limit of earshot). The collective voice of the participants navigates the acoustic territories and thresholds of the architecture, witnessed in turn by visitors. Staff of Tate from across the different teams including cleaning and security staff, invigilators, administrators and curators were invited to take part. The actions proposed new orders of movement that aimed to foster new relationships between the building and those who use it, and an interconnectedness between building members and their individual spheres of operation.

‘Days of Action’ event series at Tate Modern used collective devices from civic resistance and direct democratic assembly to explore particular relations of ’them’ and ‘us’, ‘I’ and ‘we’. Architecture is exchanged for the ‘other’ (the counter protest or authority), to be negotiated not as an antagonist but as an affective force that can generate new social and spatial possibilities.

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Revolution Between Two Points, 2016

Play extract of video

Moving Image: 8 minute loop.
Sound: 50:32 minutes.
Location: The French Communist Party Headquarters, Paris.
Series: ‘Days of Action’.
Exhibited: Cité international des arts, Paris, 2016; Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, London, 2018.

‘Revolution Between Two Points’ plays on the politics of motion – how political terms are indebted to the language of movement. The artist enacts the formal motion of revolution as she spins back and forth within the curvilinear underground corridor of the Communist party Headquarters. The motion is simultaneously physical, mediated and symbolic. It responds to the immediate plasticity of concrete form, and the original gesture of the architect’s hand which draws an architecture that also ‘breaks’ with the efficiency of rectilinear space. Her revolution is both spontaneous and abandoned, running counter to customary patterns of use, but is confined and held between two points through its mediation.

The moving imagery is juxtaposed with an archival soundtrack in French of communist politician and writer Louis Aragon addressing the 13th Congress of the French Communist Party on revolutionising the ‘Art of the Party’ in 1954. Aragon argues that a painting depicting a strike is not important because of the strike it represents, but because of the sympathy for the strikers its form can generate among viewers. Artists should therefore employ form and content to promote sympathy, and potentially action, from the viewer.

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Uprising, 2016

Image: Digital still displayed on a monitor.
Location: The Delegation Room, The French Communist Party Headquarters, Paris.
Series: Days of Action.
Exhibited: Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, London, 2018.

‘Uprising’ explores an interdependent relation between body and architectural form. The real and the symbolic in this found architectural setting are explored through the ‘politics of motion’ – how political terms are indebted to the language of movement. Within the work the action of the figure is suspended and the motion of uprising is implied within the architecture in the ‘disobedient’ floor plane rising up to meet the ceiling. A play symbol central to the image signals a constant state of beginning. 

The work nods to Slavoj Zizek’s notion of a suspended revolution that holds all the potential of Utopia without the“morning after” effect. Since as Zizek observed revolutionary ‘upheavals lose their energy when one has to approach the prosaic work of social reconstruction.’ Zizek’s notion of a suspended revolutionary act creates a“short circuit between the present and the future”, one that is permanently coming into being. (Slavoj Zizek, 2005 ‘From Revolutionary to Catastrophic Utopia’)

The work was made whilst the artists were in residence at the French Communist Party HQ in Paris, an iconic Oscar Niemeyer building designed and built for the French Communists between 1967-1980. 

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Double O, 2014

Dimensions: 390cm x 390cm x 50cm.

Materials: Motorcycle donut, vinyl, monitor and silent moving image loop.

Camera: Charlotte Crewe, rider: Lee.

Exhibited: The Promise, Arnolfini, Bristol.

The rider performs a donut as a perfectly shaped ‘O’ in an urban location. By rotating the motorbike around the front wheel in a continuous motion he burns a thick circular mark in rubber on the tarmac. Double O focuses on the illicit and fleeting activity of burning circular skid marks within the city and translates it through a spatial installation and video loop into an endless silent action governed by the logics of the gallery space.

Double O intervenes within Doing Things Separately Together as both a drawing and articulation of the city at the scale of 1:1.

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Was Here, 2002

Dimensions: 43cm x 350cm.

Materials: Black and white emulsion paint.

Published / reviewed:

Art Monthly, 10 ¦ 2003.

Critical Architecture, Routledge, 2007.

WAS HERE appropriates the language of graffiti, translating the personal to the architectural. A white wall of a new house overlooks an area which is due to be developed for luxury housing. The text ‘WAS HERE’ is painted black on the white wall and coated or veiled in white. The text immediately provokes two questions from the passer-by, ‘who was here’ and ‘what was here’? The development of the derelict site has encapsulated WAS HERE between party walls, its presence protected but not visible.


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Understanding the Measure of Things, 2002

Dimensions: 30cm x 45cm

Materials: Glicee print

Photographic documentation of an action.


Architects’ Journal 31|10|02 front cover

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