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10/04/16
Performing for the Camera – Tate Modern

This fantastic exhibition takes up a whole floor at Tate Modern and it is an immersive experience into performance and photography from different point of views.

Performing for the Camera – Tate Modern

The show starts exploring the subject of performance art as seen by photographers and consequently from us many years after they took place.

Starting from photographers documenting events by artists like Yves Klein or dance numbers by Merce Cunningham, the show changes its perspective, moving to other aspects of photography/subject relationship, becoming more intimate, ending up taking the point of view of the photographers on themselves in the form of self-portraits.

Crises_Shunk-Kender_MC-CB B2

Documenting Performance

The first part of the exhibition shows us the importance of the photographer’s presence during a performance, as without him there would be no record of it.
He chooses what to photograph and what not to as the performance unfolds before his eyes and takes lasting decision on how to portray the happening.

Staging/Collaboration

Our point of view is then changed as we are presented with some studio portraits (by Nadar).
In this section the photographer takes on the role of collaborator. The actors are dressing up to perform their roles in front of the camera. The performance is happening only because a camera is there to record it.
This theme is masterfully arranged in the red room containing photos by Eikoh Hosoe of dance performances by some of the most famous Japanese dancers (Kazuo Ono, Tatsumi Hijikata).

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Self/Portrait

Moving on in the exhibition we are confronted with self-portraits.
With them photographers document personal evolution and often use disguises, take on other identities and explore psychologic and social issues like feminism and gender identity.
Starting from the beginning of the twentieth century with Marcel Duchamp (with self-portraits of his alter ego Rrose Sélavy) all the way through the 70s to 90s with Cindy Sherman and Samuel Fosso.

Performing Real Life

We get to end of the exhibition and how could it not focus on ‘real life’.
With the advent of camera phones and apps like Instagram and Facebook we are encouraged to share our lives online as if they were acted in front of an audience.
We have no way of knowing if these photos are genuine or fake, as Amalia Ulman proved with her performance ‘Excellences & Perfections’ with which she gained 90k followers on Instagram. She spent a month researching the whole thing. There was a beginning, a climax and an end.
She started taking selfies documenting her amazing lifestyle and acted out a fake life only to reveal it was a carefully planned performance at the end.
The Telegraph calls the work “one of the most original and outstanding artworks of the digital era.”

Other artists in the exhibition: Francesca Woodman, Yayoi Kusama, Martin Parr, Masahisa Fukase, Ai Weiwei.

Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern – 18 February – 12 June 2016