One Moment, Art Installation; The Next, A Fight For Survival

I visited Tate Modern at the weekend for one of their shows in the magnificent Turbine Hall. It was something to do with immigration and Notting Hill and the carnival and modern London life, maybe.

I captured a little video – example below.

All wonderfully surreal, but there was a moment of intense experience that exhilarated and moved me.

As the masked horde banged their shields and moved around the auditorium, there were also herding the crowd at times, and I found myself hemmed in by the horde on one side and the crowd on the other. I was waiting to be moved back, I felt pressurised, I felt in the way, and then then several people in the front line with me starting reacting in different ways.


One group started dancing to the rhythm of the banging; another linked arms and pretended to front up against the masked horde. One old man (in orange) by me started to stare down a single shield carrier and moved very slowly away, such that that part of the horde was left behind. The individual he chose did not return his gaze, she looked away and I could sense her disconcertedness even behind her mask.

We had moved from a party and performance to a (friendly) confrontation, all in the blink of an eye. I saw there and then how quickly tension escalates at protests, how policing can antagonise unwittingly.

It looked something like this…

Of course, a gentle art experience at Tate has nothing in common with the struggles of people we see around the world to feel heard – from Ferguson, USA to Tahir Square, Egypt.

But it reminded me how easy it is to divide and polarise; how them and us becomes the norm; how community fractures. In my own work here, there is a red thread of humanity. We need to be on the same side.

That connectedness is available to everyone, every day, but it takes an unyielding commitment to “engender an approach, enable the measurement of distances and walking toward,” as John Pilger said, and as I used in my blog header.

It was a real and insistent reminder, a drum beat call that there is work to be done.

←This Much We Know.→

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