Last night saw the fourth streamed performance from the Tate Live series with a peformance by Harrell Fletcher (or was it?). The artist invited a busker to the Tate performance space to sing some songs and answer question about his life, at no point did we see the artist we just heard his voice raising the question (certainly among those on Twitter) who was performing? I don’t have issue with this, the artist provided the opportunity, context and framing for the performance and done well that can be clever. But from the outset the performance seems to have been misrepresented/miscommunicated. The Tate advertised the event as follows:
Artist Harrell Fletcher invites buskers to take their performances from the tube stations and streets of London into the gallery to play live, online…Harrell Fletcher’s work often takes the form of socially engaged collaborative and interdisciplinary projects. With Where I’m Calling From, buskers will shift from playing to a local London audience to performing on a global online stage. By moving these musicians from tube station, to gallery space, and then back out to the world through the web, Harrell Fletcher aims to question value, and the influence of the internet.
This reads well and actually pulled me in once again to watch, thinking that the “global space” of the London Underground as the curators called it would be compared in ways to something like Marc Auge’s non-places, e.g. airports as global not local places. Architecturally the London Underground isn’t that but it is a melting pots of cultures in transition so I had ideas in my head that we might hear music representing all those cultures, perhaps a cacophony of them giving a sense of their proximity, competetiveness etc. This didn’t happen, instead we only saw one busker and there was no sense of the local London. I had more of a sense of Stanley Prospere/Bill Jackson’s (the musician) place of birth, Saint Lucia, and his life since moving to London because this essentially became a documentary about him and not at all about the mapping of a globalised local space into the global ‘space’ of the internet.
Less of a failed networked performance this time this performance really seems like a missed opportunity on the part of the artist particularly when there seemed so clear and strong an idea behind it.
There is an interesting write up about networked performance and the Tate’s controversial statement that it is “the only place you can see art made for you to view at home” by Helen Varley Jamieson on Turbulence called we are making art to view at home …. Well worth a read.