The Power Of Performance Art At Tate Modern: Review

Performing for the camera, Tate Modern ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 25 months ago
The Power Of Performance Art At Tate Modern: Review Performing for the camera, Tate Modern 4
Artists will often go to extreme lengths for their performances. © Courtesy of Wilkinson Gallery, London and The Estate of Jimmy De Sana

Performance art can be powerful stuff. But once it's over that's it... or is it? Cameras capture performance art and preserve it for posterity. In some cases they're the only evidence it ever happened. This is the theme behind Tate Modern's latest exhibition, in which artists perform behind, in front of and towards the camera.

Performing for the Camera has everything from Yves Klein leaping from a wall in an image where the safety mattress has been removed, right through to Ai Weiwei's controversial dropping of a 2,000 year old Chinese vase, raising the issue of how Chinese heritage is treated.

Other works are equally provocative. Charles Ray uses his body in his sculpture; it looks painful but there's no doubt the human body is a much more powerful medium than any other substance. Elsewhere Niki de Saint Phalle shoots her work and points a gun at the camera.

More recent works include Samuel Fosso's self portraits where he transforms himself into various African political and cultural figures. And F Holland Day's transformation into Christ for a series of photographs.

The majority of this exhibition is in black and white — the injection of colour only coming at the end. Once more we see Amalia Ulman's fake Instagram avatar — she's also on show at the Whitechapel Gallery but Tate Modern has adopted an improved approach of including tablets so we can access the full Instagram account.

This is a great challenging exhibition: fans of performance art and those interested in art history will love it but others should give it a look-in too.

Amalia Ulman's fake Instagram avatar features here, with tablets so visitors can see the entire profile. Courtesy the Artist & Arcadia Missa

Performing for the Camera is on at Tate Modern until 12 June. Tickets are £14.50 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 05 June 2016

Continued below.