Tate Britain, 3 February  –  26 April 2009

Explore Altermodern


In the year preceding the exhibition, four 'Prologues' introduced some of the themes explored in the exhibition. The series of day-long events, including screenings, interventions, perfomances and lectures, allowed artists and theorists to discuss and debate Altermodern.

Prologue 1: Altermodern

Saturday 26 April 2008
Tate Britain

The first Prologue took place on Saturday 26 April 2008 at Tate Britain. It opened the debate with the proposition that the period defined by postmodernism has come to an end and what can be called 'altermodernity' has taken its place. Art made in the times we live in belongs to the global era, and is conceived and produced as a reaction against standardisation and nationalism. The art is characterised by artists' cross-border, cross-cultural negotiations; a new real and virtual mobility; the surfing of different disciplines; the use of fiction as an expression of autonomy.

Participating artists and theorists:

Prologue 2: Exiles

Saturday 28 June 2008
Tate Britain

The second Prologue took place on Saturday 28 June 2008 at Tate Britain. It explored the theme of Exiles.

Participating artists and theorists:

In 2002, according to the United Nations' International Migration Report, 175 million people were living in a country they were not born in. Rather than set one fixed root against another, a mythologised 'origin' against an integrating and homogenising 'soil', wouldn't it be wiser to assign other conceptual categories to the process of mutation? With about ten million more immigrants every year worldwide, increasing professional nomadism, the globalisation of goods and services and the formation of transnational political entities, isn't it about time to invent new ways of understanding what cultural identity is?

Prologue 3: Travels

Saturday 18 October 2008
Tate Britain

The third Prologue took place on Saturday 18 October 2008 at Tate Britain. It explored the theme of Travel.

Participating artists:

For the first time in the history of mankind there are no terrae incognitae, no unknown lands. Satellite images have filled in the last voids on the world map. This situation challenges today's art. Artists organise expeditions to the Antarctic or the Amazon, searching for the unseen or the unknown among the most hostile or remote lands on the globe. Geography and history have become intertwined and time appears to be the last territory to explore. In other words, travel is now a medium in itself. Furthermore, it brings into art practice some of its patterns: translation, displacements, diaries and the exoticisation of familiar events.

Prologue 4: Borders

Saturday 17 January 2009
Tate Britain

The fouth Prologue took place on Saturday 17 January 2009 at Tate Britain. It explored the theme of Borders.

Participating artists:

This event also featured a round table discussion between:

Contemporary culture has become an archipelago: no longer an entire continent, but islands of thoughts and forms, no longer a totality but separated fragments connected by unusual circuits. The artist is now a traveller who constantly trespasses the ancient borders existing between disciplines.

Prologue in pictures

Round table discussion
Members of the panel (left to right): Tom Morton; JJ Charlesworth; TJ Demos; Nicolas Bourriaud; Bob & Roberta Smith; Spartacus Chetwynd; Matthew Darbyshire

Altermodern themes


Chaining or clustering together signs from contemporary and historical periods.

Now the world has been mapped by satellites, and nowhere is unknown, artists are exploring history as a new terra incognita. Artists mine both their own archives and those of institutions or organisations, connecting chains of ideas. They remix, re-present and re-enact, using the past as part of an understanding of the present.

'With Nathaniel Mellors, Olivia Plender, Ruth Ewan or Spartacus Chetwynd, references to the past are co-ordinated according to a system of cognitive logic. To understand the present means carrying out a kind of rough-and-ready archaeological investigation of world culture, which proceeds just as well through re-enactments as through the presentation of artefacts – or again, through the technique of mixing. For example, Ewan installs a giant accordion from an Italian museum; it plays old revolutionary songs to accompany the reproduction of archival documents. Chetwynd, in the same work, can scramble Milton, Marx and Sesame Street; one of the constant features of her oeuvre is a playful use of forms not considered as relics of the past but as living tools that we need to grasp in order to create new narratives. In a similar way, Peter Coffin extracts the narrative potential of existing works of art by employing an audiovisual setup that parasitically appropriates their meaning and puts them to work as fictional characters.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p14).


Crossing not only national borders, but also the traditional artistic borders of form and medium.

Contemporary culture can no longer be seen as a single totality, but as an interrelated network – described as an archipelago. It is both unified and separated: an example of the relationship between one and many. Islands of thoughts and forms are clustered together, yet they may not have a total ‘continental’ definition. Artists are not only crossing national borders but also breaching the traditional artistic borders of form and medium. Trangressing these borders, artists link mediums and forms, geographies and time periods.

'Walead Beshty passes exposed film stock through airport X-ray scanners, or captures the cracks occurring in Perspex sculptures as they travel to exhibitions in Fedex boxes. Subodh Gupta exports commonplace utensils from India; reassembled as digitised images, they take on a significance that transcends cultural divides. Pascale Marthine Tayou employs colonised forms of African art to suggest the parameters of a truly globalised culture. The tendency of these works is to emphasise the fact that, in this era of the altermodern, displacement has become a method of depiction, and that artistic styles and formats must henceforth be regarded from the viewpoint of diaspora, migration and exodus.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p13-14).


Melding historical, journalistic or personal enquiry with fictionalised accounts.

Taking a trend that is prevalent in contemporary film and TV culture, artists are creating works which mix historical, journalistic or personal enquiry with fictionalised accounts. They layer archive and historical material with personal information. Truth and fiction are presented side by side, in modes traditionally associated with the authentic.

'The predominant aesthetics of this concern with intemporality reside to all appearances in the massive usage of black and white, for instance in the 16mm silent films projected by Joachim Koester, the iconography of David Noonan, Tris Vonna-Michell or Charles Avery, the drawings of Olivia Plender, Tacita Dean's series The Russian Ending, or the entire universe of Lindsay Seers. Today, black and white labels images as belonging to the past and the world of archives – at the same time, however, guaranteeing the authenticity of their content, by the single fact that their technique pre-dates Photoshop. In the books of W.G. Sebald, the narrative is punctuated by similar photos, which, according to the author, are there to emphasise the truth of the story.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p21).


Making use of the ideas of sustainability rather than the single explosive force.

Energy consumption can be seen as an indicator of a particular cultural era. The modernism of the twentieth century can be related to an explosion of great energy or as described by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, the plume of oil spurting from an oilwell. Postmodernism coincides with a crisis in energy – a realisation from the 1973 oil crisis that fossil fuel energy is not limitless. Today artists respond to sustainability in energy, creating feedback loops and chains of interconnections.

'Strictly speaking, then, the exhibition assembles works whose compositional principle relies on a chain of elements: the work tends to become a dynamic structure that generates forms before, during and after its production. These forms deliver narratives, the narratives of their very own production, but also their distribution and the mental journey that encompasses them. Loris Gréaud, for instance, produces electroencephalograms of his own brain as he thinks about an exhibition; this is transformed into a computer programme, then into light emissions and finally into electrical impulses releasing vibrations in the exhibition hall – before, as likely as not, being used somewhere else.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p14-15).


Exploring the positive and negative sides of enforced or voluntary geographical exile.

Postmodernism displayed the tendency to mythologise the 'origin', often reading the meaning of a work of art as being dependent on the social background to its production. But in 2002, according to the United Nations' International Migration Report, 175 million people were living in a country they were not born in. With an increase in both enforced and voluntary geographical exile or nomadism and globalisation of goods, artists are interrogating what cultural identity is, questioning these traditional ideas of origin and immigration. Rather than setting one fixed root against another, the 'origin' against an integrating and homogenising 'soil', artists explore the processes of mutation.

'What better characterises this period than the mythification of origins? The meaning of a work of art, for this second-stage postmodernism, depends essentially on the social background to its production. "Where do you come from?" appears to be its most pressing question, and essentialism its critical paradigm. Identification with genre, ethnicity, a sexual orientation or a nation sets in motion a powerful machinery: multiculturalism, now a critical methodology, has virtually become a system of allotting meanings and assigning individuals their position in the hierarchy of social demands, reducing their whole being to their identity and stripping all their significance back to their origins. Thus postmodernism has moved on from the depression of the Cold War to a neurotic preoccupation with origins typical of the era of globalisation. It is this thought-model that today finds itself in crisis, this multiculturalist version of cultural diversity that must be called into question, not in favour of a "universalism" of principles or a new modernist esperanto, but within the framework of a new modern movement based on heterochrony, a common interpretation, and freedom to explore.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p20).


Existing within many times; questioning the notion of what is considered contemporary.

Hetero – different or other, chronos – time. Within the framework of Altermodern, it describes artists’ work which cannot be easily anchored to a specific time; which asks us to question what is contemporary. Without nostalgia, artists trace lines and connections through time as well as space. It is not the modernist idea of time advancing in a linear fashion, nor the postmodern time advancing in loops, but a chaining or clustering together of signs from contemporary and historical periods which allows an exploration of what is now.

'It is significant that a number of today's artists operate in a space-time characterised by this "delay", playing with the anachronistic, with multi-temporality or time-lag. We could say that the ageless drawings of Charles Avery, the paintings of Spartacus Chetwynd or Shezad Dawood, the iconographic materials of Olivia Plender, Peter Coffin, Matthew Darbyshire and Ruth Ewan, or Tacita Dean's and Joachim Koester's references to the origins of the cinema – like those of Navin Rawanchaikul to Bollywood posters – all deal in the aesthetics of heterochrony: their work displays none of the obvious signs of contemporaneity, save perhaps in the process of their constitution, in the assembling of their parts into meaningful networks. Here what is "contemporary" is the structure of the work, its method of composition: the very fact that it brings together heterochronic elements – delay (analogous to "pre-recorded") coexists with the immediate (or "live") and with the anticipated, just as documentary coexists with fiction, not according to a principle of accumulation (postmodern baroquism), but with the aim of revealing our present, in which temporalities and levels of reality are intertwined.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p21).


Creating forms based on the experiences of travel – using travel as the form itself.

As global travel has become more attainable, the act of travelling has become a medium in itself. Artists explore geographies, searching for the unseen or the unknown among both their own known environments and the most hostile or remote lands on the globe, documenting their personal journeys and discoveries. They create forms based on their experiences of travel – using patterns of travel; translation, displacements, diaries and the exoticisation of familiar events.

'Thus the exhibition brings together three sorts of nomadism: in space, in time and among the "signs". Of course, these notions are not mutually exclusive, and the same artist can simultaneously explore geographical, historical and socio-cultural realities. We need to be clear that nomadism, as a way of learning about the world, here amounts to much more than a simplistic generalisation: the term enshrines specific forms, processes of visualisation peculiar to our own epoch. In a word, trajectories have become forms: contemporary art gives the impression of being uplifted by an immense wave of displacements, voyages, translations, migrations of objects and beings, to the point that we could state that the works presented in Altermodern unravel themselves along receding lines of perspective, the course they follow eclipsing the static forms through which they initially manifest themselves.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p13).


Viator – to travel – giving movement and dynamism to form.

Viator – from the Latin for travel or traveller. Artists are creating works that are dynamic structures, manifesting forms before, during and after production. Often works are not conceived as finished – they are clusters of thought and production, or points on a continuous line. Artists transform ideas or signs, they transport and translate them. They show their navigation between the signs, often almost in the form of hypertext – one sign points to another, which in turn leads to another and so on.

'In their productions, perspective is simultaneously geographical (mobility, displacement and cultural nomadism as methods of composition) and historical (heterochrony as a spontaneous take on the world). Simon Starling or Darren Almond, for example, displace objects in space to illuminate their history; they could be said to "viatorise" them (from Latin viator, "traveller"). For them, historical memory, like the topography of the contemporary world, exists only in the form of a network. Signs are displaced, "viatorised" in circuits, and the work of art presents itself in the form of this dynamic system.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p22).

Exhibition artists

Franz Ackermann

Born 1963, Neumarkt St. Veit, Germany. Lives and works: Berlin, Germany

Franz Ackermann's installations frequently comprise arrangements of urban ephemera, set against large wall paintings and small watercolours. They explore the idea of the artist as tourist, using painting almost as a type of GPS (Satellite Navigation) technology. The installations exist as maps of the psychogeographical drifts the artist undertakes in cities across the world. The watercolours, which Ackermann calls 'mental maps', are studies that the artist uses as 'companions' on his travels. They represent the artist's itineraries and negotiations of places, and they directly inform the large paintings.

In his installations, the artist confronts the viewer with two-dimensional works and a range of objects that encourage the movement of the viewer as a way to alter vision. The painted planes become spaces that must be walked through and experienced as the viewer is forced to navigate the psychedelic landscape of the work.

For Altermodern, Ackermann has created an 'on-site' installation that consists of works made in his studio, while in transit and within the gallery.

Works in the exhibition

«Gateway»–Getaway 2008-2009
Room installation, mixed media, wall painting, oil on canvas and watercolour
Courtesy the artist, Jay Jopling/White Cube and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

Darren Almond

Born 1971, Wigan. Lives and works: London, UK

Darren Almond is an extensive traveller and he uses his work to address themes of global importance about the places he visits, such as their economic, historical and ecological implications. His work often examines the cultural significance of points of departure and arrival, as well as the distortion of time by movement. His film and video works have focused on remote places including Antarctica, Indonesia and Russia while his sculptures are made from industrial objects found in urban landscapes.

Since 1998, Almond has taken a series of photographs on nights with a full moon, using extended exposure times of fifteen minutes or longer. The Fullmoon series began as a way of traversing the places of traditional landscape painters such as Cézanne, Turner and Constable but has evolved to include other remote locations.

The three recent Fullmoons shown for Altermodern were taken in Huang Shan, a mountainous region of China where there are many sacred sites that were depicted by classical Chinese scroll painters who regularly signed with the mark known as the 'dragon's eye'.

Works in the exhibition

Fullmoon@The Sea of Clouds 2008
C-print on paper
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Max Hetzler and Jay Jopling/White Cube

Fullmoon@Huangshan 2008
C-print on paper
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Max Hetzler and Jay Jopling/White Cube

Dragon's Eye 2008
C-print on paper
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Max Hetzler and Jay Jopling/White Cube

Fullmoon@Li 2008
C-print on paper
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Max Hetzler and Jay Jopling/White Cube

Charles Avery

Born 1973, Oban, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

Since 2004, Avery has dedicated himself solely to a complex and ever-evolving project, The Islanders. His meticulous drawings, narrative texts and objects constitute a coherent representation of an imaginary island, its topography, inhabitants, exotic vegetation and unfamiliar animals. However, Avery is not interested in describing every last inch or detail of this fictional land. Rather, he has immersed himself in inventing its complex cultural, social and formal structures, often referencing the real world to create layers of compelling meaning.

A central figure – whose name is never revealed to us - casts anchor on The Island, thrilled by the thought of becoming its conqueror until he finds that others have discovered it before him. Forced to reconsider his plans, he decides instead to inhabit, explore and record it. He assumes the career of a hunter, the most respected profession on The Island, with the ultimate ambition of capturing the 'Noumenon' - a legendary creature that has never been seen but whose closest relative is believed to be the 'Aleph Nul'. The Aleph Nul is a prehistoric-looking, feline creature with an elephant-like trunk. One day, on a casual walk, he kills an Aleph Nul, causing its huge head to drop off. The beast remains where it was slain for many years, becoming a legend in its own right, until the hunter convinces a wealthy patron that his story is true and a retrieval operation takes place.

Works in the exhibition

Untitled (The head of an Aleph) 2008-09
Iron, concrete, wire and polystyrene
Courtesy the artist

Installation of drawings 2008-09
Pencil, ink and gouache on card and paper; wood, glass, and brass plates

Courtesy the artist

Walead Beshty

Lives and works: Los Angeles, USA

Walead Beshty works with photography, producing unique large-scale photograms made through processes in the darkroom. Creating images that exist equally as images and as objects, he harnesses the power of photography as a recording device to evidence their making. In a recent series recalling works of Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy, Beshty exposed folded and shaped photographic paper to varying intensities of light: the resulting images preserve the information as dense stripes, shapes and swathes of colour.

For Altermodern, Beshty presents a series of large-scale photographs made by passing the film through airport X-ray machines. Intersecting abstract forms and shadowy washes of colour emerge from the processed results. These are shown alongside the artist's ongoing series of FedEx sculptures that he commenced in 2005. The sculptures reflect the traumas inflicted by multiple shippings across the world and consist of glass boxes in a continual state of change as they are smashed, cracked and distorted while in transit from country to country. They are formed in the 'non-places' that exist within international airspace and occupy a 'volume' designated and owned by FedEx. Each rupture or fracture articulates the journey of the works from studio to gallery to museum, the titles providing a record of provenance and a chronology of their movement.

Works in the exhibition

Transparency (Negative) [Kodak NC Color Film: December 5 – December 9, 2007 ORD/MIA MIA/ORD] 2007
Epson Ultrachrome K3 archival ink jet print on Museo Silver Rag paper
Courtesy Wallspace, New York and China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles

Transparency (Negative) [Kodak NC Color Film: October 15 – October 19, 2008 LAX/LHR LHR/LAX] 2008
Epson Ultrachrome K3 archival ink jet print on Museo Silver Rag paper
Courtesy Wallspace, New York and China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles

Transparency (Negative) [Kodak NC Color Film: May 8 – May 18, 2008 ORD/LHR LHR/IAD IAD/JFK LGA/DCA DCA/ORD] 2007
Epson Ultrachrome K3 archival ink jet print on Museo Silver Rag paper
Courtesy Wallspace, New York and China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles

Transparency (Positive) [Fuji Provia Color Film: October 19 – October 21, 2007 ORD/LAX LAX/ORD] 2008
Epson Ultrachrome K3 archival ink jet print on Museo Silver Rag paper
Courtesy Wallspace, New York and China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles

Transparency (Positive) [Fuji Provia Color Film: April 7– April 13, 2008 ORD/LAX LAX/ORD] 2008
Epson Ultrachrome K3 archival ink jet print on Museo Silver Rag paper
Courtesy Wallspace, New York and China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles

Installation of FedEx® large Kraft boxes ©2005 FedEx 330508, International Priority, Los Angeles-Tijuana, Tijuana-Los Angeles, Los Angeles-London, October 28, 2008- January 16, 2009 2008-ongoing
Glass with safety glass laminate, silicon and cardboard
Courtesy Wallspace, New York and China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles

Spartacus Chetwynd

Born 1973, London, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

Spartacus Chetwynd is best known for her carnivalesque live performances featuring homemade costumes and a varying ensemble of friends and family. These performances share something of the bawdy anarchy of sixteenth century wandering troupes, and are structured around, and combine key moments from, the whole spectrum of art history and cultural production. For example, An evening with Jabba the Hut 2003 presented a flamboyant side to the grotesque villain in the film 'Return of the Jedi' while characters from Hieronymous Bosch's The Temptation of St Anthony and scenes from Giotto's frescoes formed the basis of Debt, a Medieval Play 2005. Similarly, in her performance The Fall of Man 2006, Chetwynd mixed 'Paradise Lost' by John Milton with ideas from 'The German Ideology', a seminal text by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, in order to express a longing for an 'untainted existence' and identify a moment at which 'Eden becomes a state of mind'.

For Altermodern, Chetwynd continues her exploration of alternative platforms for making and presenting work through a TV pilot drama called Hermitos Children 2008. In the vein of the popular television genre of female detective programmes, the work features Joan Shipman, the protagonist, who uncovers and solves sex-crimes and murders. Recalling Salvador Dali's contribution to Hitchcock's film 'Spellbound', dream sequences push the narrative forward. The scenes at 'Helmut Newton Ladies' Night' and 'Yoyo's' were shot at venues run by Chetwynd during the making of the work - a performance club night and Jewish restaurant respectively. Hermitos Children is an attempt to harness and preserve the 'bottled mayhem' of such underground happenings in a dispersible format.

Works in the exhibition

Hermitos Children 2008
DVD; TV Wall
Courtesy the artist and Herald St

Marcus Coates

Born 1968, London, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

Marcus Coates asks what it is to be human by experimenting with 'being' an animal. Through his interests in ornithology, zoology and anthropology, Coates has developed skills to bypass his own humanness in order to experience the world through the mind and body of an animal. He often adopts a shamanic role to access a nether world populated by birds and animals. By communicating with their spirits, he attempts to gain insight into difficult problems on behalf of the public.

In The Plover's Wing 2008, Coates seeks to find solutions for an Israeli mayor who is concerned about the future of the local youth in the face of the continuing violence in the region. The mayor and his interpreter look on as the artist calls out incantations, asking for guidance from a series of animal spirits. By exploring what it is to 'be' one of these animals, the artist draws on a complex imaginary world to find empathy with his human subjects and their dilemmas. He translates the behaviour of a bird he sees - a plover - in much the same way as the interpreter decodes the conversation between the artist and the mayor. In so doing, Coates is ultimately seeking to reveal the role of the artist as a translatory force in society through his power to become someone or something else.

Works in the exhibition

The Plover's Wing 2008
Courtesy the artist and Workplace Gallery

Peter Coffin

Born 1972, Berkeley, California, USA. Lives and works: New York, USA

Peter Coffin is driven by a desire to create 'new kinds of artistic experiences for the viewer rather than drawing them into the character of the object'. His work often takes the form of events through which seemingly unrelated elements are brought into relationship with one another to reveal something beyond our regular levels of perception. Inspired by an intense curiosity, inquisition and a belief in a mystical 'truth', Coffin acts as the agent between disparate points of connection to create new pathways between existing images.

Coffin's recent projects have included portraits of a person's aura captured using a specially designed Polaroid camera and constructing and flying a seven metre wide UFO controlled by text message. In Around, About, Expanded Field (Sculpture Silhouette props) 2007, Coffin reduced 40 iconic sculptures - from Jeff Koons' inflatable bunny to an Easter Island head - to silhouette cut-outs which viewers were encouraged to place in front of a projection of landscapes filmed from above. Freeing the sculptures from their original contexts, Coffin allows them to fly, liberated, through the air.

For Untitled (Tate Britain) 2009 Coffin has selected works from across Tate's collection and combined them with a bespoke projected animation and soundtrack. The artworks remain both in their conventional habitat and simultaneously become mobilised as fictitious characters in a new narrative scenario which unfolds in real time and opens up a web of associations. Like the sculpture silhouettes in Around, About Coffin charges existing artworks with a life and mind of their own.

Works in the exhibition

Untitled (Tate Britain) 2009
Animation and works from Tate Collection
Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; Galerie Perrotin, Paris and Herald St

Matthew Darbyshire

Born 1977, Cambridge, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

Matthew Darbyshire's installations draw from contemporary culture, aspirational design products, pop, film and music, imparting them with the aesthetics of visual art. Darbyshire regularly uses elements of interior design, exhibition display and architecture to examine contemporary social, cultural and consumer habits. In Blades House 2008, a recreation of an ex-local authority flat found across the street from his gallery, he designed an entire living environment, complete with folding bicycle, framed prints by Michael Craig-Martin and Robin Day school chair - all seen as the domestic requirements of an aspiring thirty-something urban professional. In Darbyshire's installation for Altermodern, Palac 2009, he draws parallels between elements of the Neo-classical architecture of the Duveen galleries at Tate Britain and elements of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw - a Socialist Realist building by the Russian architect Lev Rudnev that was constructed in 1955 as a gift by the USSR to the people of Warsaw. These shared elements have then been subjected to a 'face-lift' to include features typical of contemporary buildings for cultural regeneration, in particular that of Will Alsop's ill-fated community-arts initiative, The Public, in West Bromwich.

Darbyshire's 're-dressing' of the entrance to the main galleries creates an alternative threshold to the exhibition space. It seeks to analyse the ideologies and social policies that underpin large cultural buildings such as Tate. Darbyshire collapses the boundaries of these buildings, their histories, contexts and geographical locations, so that each element of design exists simultaneously as past/present/here/elsewhere.

Works in the exhibition

Palac 2009
Mixed media
Courtesy the artist and Herald St

Shezad Dawood

Born 1974, London, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

In Feature 2008, Shezad Dawood creates an entirely new genre of film – the Zombie Western. The film uses mythologies taken from both eastern and western cultures, mingling Norse myth with Hindu gods and cowboys rising from the dead, to redraw the frontiers between fact and fiction and turn the genre of the Western on its head. Dawood has also converted the Lightbox space into a scene that could be taken from the film with a stage for live music and a gallows for the 'undead'.

The plot sees the Hindu deity Krishna (played by Dawood) with the Indian chief 'Crazy Horse' share an apocalyptic prophesy called 'the Coming of Ragnarök' taken from Norse mythology about the end of the world. A bar brawl, a battle and the devouring of the sheriff then follow. Eventually, there is a reconciliation between 'Billy the Krishna' and a Valkyrie who leads the Zombies.

The three short lectures given to the camera by chief-cum-lecturer 'Sitting Bull' (played by the artist David Medalla) on language, film noir, Beckett and panning techniques, allow some access to the supernatural world Dawood presents to us. More generally, Feature is concerned with the process of image making, with theories of representation, cinematic genres and the history of film.

As part of Dawood's programme, there will be series of events and screenings in the Lightbox. See Events for details.

Works in the exhibition

Feature 2008
Courtesy the artist and Paradise Row

Feature received Funding from Arts Council England East and Wysing Arts Centre and was realised with completion funding from Arts Council England London and the support of Film London Artist's Moving Image Network and further support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The Great Outdoors 1 (Cactus) 2008
Oil on canvas
Courtesy the artist and Paradise Row

Assemblage 2 (Rock and Skull) 2008
C-print on paper, cow's skull and watercolour
Courtesy the artist and Paradise Row

Tacita Dean

Born 1965, Canterbury, UK. Lives and works: Berlin, Germany

Tacita Dean is often attracted to obsolete places and half-forgotten stories, exploring themes such as the passing of time, memory and cessation. She works in a variety of media including drawings and photographs, but she is best known for her 16mm films. Dean is passionate about filmmaking, and her works articulate the essential features of the cinematic language, its formal and conceptual processes.

The Russian Ending 2001 was produced in Copenhagen after the printer Niels Borch Jensen told Dean of an early twentieth century custom of the Danish film industry whereby films were produced in two versions: one with a happy ending for the American market and one with a tragic ending for the Russian market. In Dean's work, the images depict both natural and man-made disasters, and derive from original postcards bought by the artist in European flea markets. Superimposed on each image are handwritten notes alluding to a working storyboard of a film.

Dean's interventions are based on real or fictional elements drawn from the visual narrative of the photographs. They range from technical instructions for lighting, sound and camera movement to descriptive notes suggestive of mini scenarios. With comments such as 'man's laughter / manslaughter' for a collapsed bridge or 'no life... silence' on a devastated battlefield, Dean's evocative narratives are enriched with wit, metaphor and melancholy. These imagined endings to imagined films immerse the viewer in a fictional journey, each stop a culmination of a poignant Russian ending.

Works in the exhibition

From The Russian Ending 2001
Photogravure on paper
Tate. Presented by the artist 2002

Ruth Ewan

Born 1980, Aberdeen, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

Ruth Ewan takes as her focus the history of protest and activism, particularly the circulation of ideas through unofficial channels. Viewing the recent past as crucial to our understanding of the present, Ewan selects specific moments of dissent to reactivate in the public sphere as drawings, performances and events. In Did You Kiss the Foot that Kicked You 2007, Ewan asked over 100 buskers dotted around the City of London to sing 'The Ballad of Accounting' for one week. The song was written in 1964 by Ewan MacColl, then a leading figure in folk revival with strong Communist beliefs, who is now better remembered for his song 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' performed by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

Prompted by an apparent absence of left-wing ideology in popular culture, Ewan has been compiling A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World - a growing collection of over 600 political and idealistic songs - since 2003. For Squeezebox Jukebox, a selection of songs from her archive will be played once a day on the largest, functioning accordion in the world which has been constructed in Castelfidardo, Italy, the international capital of accordion builders. Ewan identifies a 'fake authenticity' to this inherently nomadic instrument which, although not invented in Western Europe until the nineteenth century, is often believed to be older in origin. For Ewan, the giant accordion magnifies the instrument's unfashionability; cumbersome to play, it illustrates the gulf between the desire for social change and the difficulty in bringing that desire to fruition.

Works in the exhibition

Squeezebox Jukebox 2009
Giant accordion constructed by Giancarlo Francenella in Castelfidardo, Italy, 2000.

Once a day for the duration of the exhibition two volunteers play a selection of songs from Ewan's ongoing archive of protest and political songs: A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World 2003–ongoing
Courtesy the artist and Ancient & Modern, London

Loris Gréaud

Born 1979, Eaubonne, France. Lives and works: Paris, France and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Loris Gréaud's complex projects frequently have multiple incarnations, manifesting themselves through architectural environments, music scores, film and art works. His interdisciplinary practice is driven by a wish to combine different fields of knowledge and he often works with architects and scientists to realise his ideas.

Exhibitions of Gréaud's best known and ongoing project, Cellar Door 2008, have recently been presented in Paris and London. The work also exists as an opera and as an architectural project in the artist's studio - a space that is both real and symbolic of the imagination and of a continual cycle of production. At the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, three identical rooms were presented with repeated elements - such as a carpet inspired by the designs of Buckminster Fuller, special light-emitting speakers and an identical triplet standing in each room serving black champagne to viewers - to create a disorientating feeling of déjà vu.

Frequency of an Image 2008 was initiated when Gréaud performed a neurological experiment to record his own brain activity for thirty minutes during a time of intense thought about the Cellar Door global project. The brainwaves recorded have been converted into electrical frequencies which are broadcast from a central unit to small vibrators set into the architecture of the space. Gréaud's cerebral wanderings are translated into a physical experience for the viewer, making something as ethereal as thought into a tangible sensation.

Works in the exhibition

Tremors Where Forever (Frequency of an Image, White Edit) 2008
Modified micro vibrators, software, plexiglass console and white paint
Courtesy GréaudStudio & Yvon Lambert Paris – New York

Subodh Gupta

Born 1964, Bihar, India. Lives and works: New Delhi, India

Born in Bihar, once the seat of Buddhist learning in India, Gupta now lives in New Delhi. The artist's personal journey, from semi-rural country to the capital city, could be an allegory of India today, where village life is swiftly giving way to the culture of the capitalist megalopolis. As an eager and fast-growing middle class opens the way to a global culture, accelerating transformations of all sorts, Subodh Gupta tests the colonial/racial guilt and teases the aesthetic/consumerist desires of the 'other' Developed/Western World through his monumental sculptures and installations, created from hundreds of shining stainless steel objects that reflect the short circuit between tradition and change.

The title Line Of Control turns a blasé media stereotype into a poetic metaphor. Here, a phrase used to describe contested borders between disputed territories from Bosnia to Kashmir is shorn of its limited and limiting geo-political rhetoric to describe the gap that exists between desire and aspiration, realisation and faith, dreams and reality and night and nightmare. Gupta's giant sculpture, Line Of Control 2008, symbolises the release of the uneasy pressure-point, that liberates mundane, tension-ridden reality through a bursting mushroom cloud of kitchen utensils. In a world constantly being lost or destroyed, only to emerge anew, reconfigured and reconstructed from its own debris, the sculpture proposes a cloud-burst of prosperity, peace and harmony. By invoking metaphors for food and its containers the sublime and the sensual are never far from Subodh Gupta's ever hospitable high table.

Works in the exhibition

Line of Control 2008
Stainless steel and steel structure, stainless steel utensils
Courtesy the artist, Arario Gallery and Hauser & Wirth Zurich London

Rachel Harrison

Born 1966, New York, USA. Lives and works: New York, USA

Rachel Harrison splices together found objects, images and hand-sculpted abstract forms to create installations that possess the iconoclastic energy of Punk. Their free combination of art historical references and consumer items has led them to be likened to possessing the chaotic cumulative force of a lava flow with its intrinsically levelling effect.

Pairing the ephemeral and obsolete (lottery scratch-cards, gossip magazines) with the enduring and timeless (stuffed animals, furniture), Harrison presents all her material on an equal footing and wilfully flattens out any cultural hierarchies. Found objects represent themselves while performing a symbiotic role within their new environment. This ambiguity of appearance is echoed in the constant confusion between the pedestal and the object it supports - a can of Slim Fast teetering at the summit of a totemic plinth, for example.

Despite their informal appearances, Harrison's installations are constructed with precision for maximum effect and comedic timing. In Voyage of the Beagle 2007, (Second Voyage 2008), Harrison makes reference to Charles Darwin's epic five-year voyage and the findings he recorded in his book 'The Origin of Species', the basis for the theory of evolution. The pantheon of fifty-eight portraits of figures and sculptures, from ancient artefacts to shop mannequins, functions as a sort of anti-taxonomy, mocking ideas of progression or systems of classification and otherness. Against this backdrop, the diametrically opposed actions depicted in the two sculptures highlight strange rituals performed by the human species: the destruction of a car outside a restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and the use of ping pong as a diplomatic tool by the Republic of China in the 1970s.

Works in the exhibition

Second Voyage of the Beagle 2008
Suite of 58 digital inkjet prints
Courtesy Greene Naftali, New York

A Whole New Game 2008
Wood, chicken wire, polystyrene, Parex, cement, acrylic, photograph, and ping pong balls
courtesy Greene Naftali, New York

Bike Week at Daytona 2008
Wood, plastic, Parex, cement, acrylic, cinder block, ribbon, DVD player and Bike Week video
courtesy Meyer Kainer Gallery and Greene Naftali, New York

Joachim Koester

Born 1962, Copenhagen, Denmark. Lives and works: New York, USA

Relics of forgotten or obscure moments in history or culture are the raw material of Joachim Koester's work. Supported by rigorous research, his projects create visual environments that are only suggestive of their content, allowing the viewer to take an active role in piecing the parts together. He is fascinated by the 'obscurity of things that take place at the fringe but thrive secretly at the heart of mainstream culture'.

The Hashish Club 2009 draws from the cultural history of hashish (cannabis) and comprises a 16 mm film of an abstract animation of hashish plants, a photograph of a lush nineteenth-century interior and dimly-lit Moroccan lamps. It is based on 'Le Club des Hashishin', a Parisian group of the late 1840s that was centred around a fascination with drug-induced experiences. Its members included key figures of the French intelligentsia, such as Charles Baudelaire and Eugène Delacroix. They convened in the lavish interior of Hôtel de Lauzun and were served the 'green paste' in oriental, porcelain dishes.

Hashish was supplied to the club by Dr Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a psychologist who compared the effects of the drug to the symptoms of mental illness. Moreau did not use the substance himself but observed the club's 'volunteers' with the detached interest of a scientist. Not all of the members were users of the drug either but they all were intrigued by claims of its ability to expand creativity and by its curious effects on people's mental state. Some of them, including Théophile Gautier, wrote about the atmosphere of decadent extravagance nurtured by the club.

Works in the exhibition

The Hashish Club 2008
16 mm film animation, lamps and photograph
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Jan Mot, Brussels

Nathaniel Mellors

Born 1974, Doncaster, UK. Lives and works: Amsterdam, Netherlands and London, UK

Nathaniel Mellors explores moments of dissolution, and the breakdown of form and content, in a variety of scenarios. Parodying the formats and structures through which information is popularly conveyed – such as the television documentary, political broadcast, critical analysis or avant-garde plays - he sets up theatrical frameworks to test the line between meaningful content and incomprehensibility. At the core of his practice lies a fascination with the 'use value' of language and the relationship between word and effect.

Giantbum 2009 takes as its subject an absurdist script written by Mellors in which a group of medieval explorers become lost inside a giant's body. They are starving and desperate to find a way out when their religious leader, 'The Father', returns from an expedition into the giant's bowels. He is half-insane from having turned to cannibalism and coprophilia – an obsession with excrement – in order to survive. Unable to admit to his activities, he invents nonsensical, metaphysical concepts in his defence, believing the group to be lost inside a God with a tribe of cannibal-zombies guarding the exit.

Taking inspiration from Pasolini's final film 'Salo' (1975) and Rabelais' novel 'Gargantua & Pantagruel' (1532-64), Mellors uses cannibalism and coprophilia in part as metaphors for cultural recycling. The ideas of reflexivity and circularity – embedded in The Father's continual 'regeneration' through eating his own excrement and in the script's systematic transformation of meaning – are mirrored in the presentation of the work as being akin to the different stages of digestion.

Works in the exhibition

Giantbum 2008
Video installation with animatronic sculpture
Courtesy the artist and Matt's Gallery, London

Gustav Metzger

Born 1926, Nuremberg, Germany. Lives and works: London, UK

Gustav Metzger's life and art have been defined fundamentally by his political and social ideals. Of Jewish-Polish descent, he was rescued from Nazi Germany as a twelve-year-old and brought to England by the Refugee Children Movement (the Kindertransport). He has considered himself stateless since then.

Believing in the power of art to change society, Metzger makes works that cross the boundaries of politics, science and technology. He is well known for initiating the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) in London in 1966 that focused on the notion of destruction in art echoing destruction in society. In 1963, he created his first 'auto-destructive' light projections in which hydrochloric acid was applied onto nylon stretched over a slide frame. He also started working with liquid crystals for his projections, seeing their ephemeral, supple and 'auto-creative' qualities as a metaphor of an 'art of change, growth and movement.'

Liquid Crystals Environment consists of five projectors, each with a single slide made up of two thin sheets of glass containing a small amount of liquid crystals. The projectors are equipped with rotating, polarising filters and with a cooling and heating system that causes the liquid crystals to liquefy or freeze, creating psychedelic effects of shifting colour and form. Speed and temperature are controlled by software, which is designed to simulate the first projections of liquid crystals, done manually by Metzger. Such a method was used in 1966 when he was invited to flood the concerts of Cream, The Who and The Move at the Roundhouse, London with colour and light.

Works in the exhibition

Liquid Crystal Environment
1. Landscape
2. Breathing
3. Torsion
4. Kaos

Mixed media
Tate. Purchased 2006

Mike Nelson

Born 1967, Loughborough, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

Re-appropriating elements drawn from politics, philosophy, science and culture, Mike Nelson creates immersive environments suggestive of parallel worlds. His shabby but elaborate interiors seem lived in yet eerily empty as if the occupants hastily escaped. The visitor is made to feel like an intruder, about to be discovered at any moment, yet left to piece together the puzzle of familiar references and hints for secret solutions.

The Projection Room (Triple Bluff Canyon) 2004 is a life size recreation of the front room of a Victorian house that served as the artist’s studio in South London, complete with its furniture, books and tangled paraphernalia. The work is informed by an engraving by the German artist Albrecht Dürer, St Jerome in his Study 1514, which shows the saint in solitary meditation, surrounded by his books and objects. A video projection hits the gallery wall from within the room, featuring conspiracy 'expert' Jordan Maxwell delivering a slide lecture. In this he finds connections, conspiracies and malicious intent behind anything, from the pyramid on the US dollar bill to the linked double Xs of the EXXON logo. The format of the work echoes Hotel Palenque 1969, a seminal work by American artist Robert Smithson andva major impetus for the 2004 installation.

By denying entry to the room, the artist changes the usual dynamics between his work and the viewer’s experience of it. The shift from total immersion to observing from a distance sets up a dialogue between reality and imagination, reason and paranoia, presence and past.

Works in the exhibition

The projection room (Triple Bluff Canyon) 2004
Constructed room with video projection
Originally commissioned as part of the installation Triple Bluff Canyon at Modern Art Oxford.
Courtesy the artist, Galleria Franco Noero, Turin; Matt's Gallery, London and 303 Gallery, New York

David Noonan

Born 1969, Australia. Lives and works: London, UK

David Noonan assembles collages of found images of mime, theatre, psychedelia, folk culture and performance. The collages depict figures engaged in ceremonies and rituals, frequently wearing strange costumes or masks. His works raise questions of memory and role-play. The black and white images, layered upon sepia tones, hold a sense of timelessness, acting as residues of events rather than as nostalgic records of the past.

Noonan's recent, large-scale images, which are made with jute and linen, use overprinting and layering to build dense un-negotiable spaces. The narratives seem mythical – a group of performers stretches, hands raised in expectation of some unspecified happening – but their meanings are also unexplained.

For Altermodern, Noonan has created a new sculpture that could act as a backdrop for the events depicted by his two-dimensional works: a procession of characters inhabits an ambiguous space, suggesting a playful act, a protest or perhaps something more unsettling.

Works in the exhibition

Untitled 2008
Silkscreen on jute and linen collage
Courtesy the David Simkins Collection

Untitled 2008
Silkscreen on jute, wood and steel in 5 parts
Courtesy the artist and HOTEL

Katie Paterson

Born 1981, Glasgow, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

Katie Paterson's poetic vocabulary is both simple in gesture and monumental in scope. Treating the cosmos as her playground, her works span vast distances, making connections between disparate points and timescales. For Paterson, the universe is at once a graspable entity and an elastic proposition in a state of continual flux.

Paterson is best known for her project Vatnajökull (the sound of) 2007-8 in which she invited her audience to listen to the sounds of a melting glacier in Iceland via a live mobile phone link. For Earth-Moon-Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon) 2007, she distorted Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' by beaming it to the moon and back in Morse code, its uneven surface registering as gaps in the notation.

All the Dead Stars 2009 continues Paterson's explorations into the celestial realm. Documenting the known locations of over 27,000 dead stars from data supplied by astronomers, supernova hunters and astrophysists, Paterson finds a visual means to make tangible the enormity of the universe and our location within it. (Our galaxy is indicated by the cluster of stars forming a horizontal line across its centre.) Paterson comments: 'the death of stars really is the cycle of life and death in the universe...stars make the heavier elements needed to form planets and build life.' By her etching of long-gone events into the surface of metal, the map will be defunct even from the moment of its making.

Works in the exhibition

All the Dead Stars 2008
Etched metal
Courtesy the artist and Albion, London

Olivia Plender

Born 1977, London, UK. Lives and works: London, UK

Olivia Plender's work questions the legitimacy of historical knowledge and the romantic idea of returning to a pre-industrial golden age. Her interest in uncovering the forgotten story of a British youth movement called the 'Kindred of the Kibbo Kift' forms the basis for her installation for Altermodern. As part of her museum-like display, Plender presents Bring Back Robin Hood 2008, a video in the style of a travel log that moves backwards and forwards in history, documenting the artist's research into the Kibbo Kift. The video's cyclical narrative examines the recurrence of economic crises with reference to neo-colonialism and the nationalistic idealisation of the past, the latter personified by figures such as Robin Hood.

The movement was formed in the 1920s when its 'Head Man', John Hargrave, split from the Boy Scouts. It originated as a left-wing, outdoor education programme but, in response to the economic crisis of the 1930s, was radicalised into a political movement called 'The Green Shirts' with Hargrave as its charismatic leader. The uniformed group campaigned for Social Credit - a now discredited monetary reform theory - and was linked to several public incidents, including one in which a green arrow was shot through the window of 10 Downing Street.

Works in the exhibition

Machine Shall be the Slave of Man, but We Will Not Slave for the Machine 2008
Mixed media
Courtesy the artist

Seth Price

Born 1973, East Jerusalem. Lives and works: New York, USA

Seth Price's works draw on the devices of music, film, writing, publishing and object-making. Using images appropriated from the internet or from archives, and employing various means of dissemination, Price attempts to redistribute 'pirated materials' with the aim of undermining traditional music and art production strategies. Access to several of Price's works is provided through his website, such as Title Variable 2001-ongoing which comprises free downloadable 'mixtapes' accompanied by printable CD covers and essays. Price's practice examines 'the system', both economic and socio-cultural, and suggests there are no longer ways for us to exist outside it: instead, new links must be opened up.

Price's large-scale wall pieces, using images 'ripped' from the internet, are suggestive of topographical forms or silhouetted images of human interaction. Cut from luxuriously exotic wood and coated in plastics to create works resembling bespoke design objects, they depict the exchange of gestures, such as a handshake, and symbols of commerce. Lending no more weight to either, the works simply frame the gallery walls.

Works in the exhibition

Untitled 2008
Cherry burl and diamond acrylic, laser-cut from jpeg
Private Collection, Courtesy Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Untitled 2008
Burled Carpathian Elm and diamond acrylic, laser-cut from jpeg
Goetz Collection

Untitled 2008
Vavona Redwood and diamond acrylic, laser-cut from jpeg
Private Collection, Courtesy Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Untitled 2008
Ebony and diamond acrylic, laser-cut from jpeg
Private Collection, Courtesy Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Navin Rawanchaikul

Born 1971, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Lives and works: Fukuoka, Japan and Chiang Mai, Thailand

Navin Rawanchaikul approaches the question of cultural identity in his work with humour and irreverence, combining biographical references with the vibrant visual styles of Bollywood films, comic books and advertising. His projects often exist beyond the confines of the exhibition space, exemplified by his recurrent use of the taxicab as an alternative gallery.

Places of Rebirth 2009 is inspired by a first-time visit to Pakistan, his ancestors' birthplace. It is painted in the style of an Indian movie billboard and presents images of Rawanchaikul's family and people he met in Pakistan alongside historical pictures from the partition of India in 1947 when his family migrated to Thailand. The portraits of these communities and their passage through time and place are bridged through the imaginary journey of a Thai taxi (a tuk tuk), similar to the one used to transport Rawanchaikul and his family across the famous Wagah border of India and Pakistan. The narrative offers a re-reading of personal history while raising questions of nation and identity in today's world.

The film Hong Rub Khaek 2008 offers a less autobiographical comment on migration in which Rawanchaikul interviews seven elderly people of Indian origin who now live in Chiang Mai about their memories of their birthplaces and of Thailand. From Puk-kun to Mari 2008 is a personal handwritten letter from Rawanchaikul to his daughter who was born and lives in Japan. It explains the artist's childhood confusion over his racial and national identity to help her accept her own sense of place as Indian-Thai-Japanese.

Navin Rawanchaikul also presented the film Navins of Bollywood 2006 at Prologue 1: Altermodern.

Works in the exhibition

Hong Rub Khaek 2008
Single video channel
Courtesy the artist

Places of Rebirth 2009
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy the artist

From Puk-kun to Mari 2008
Pencil on paper
Courtesy the artist

Prologue in pictures

Navin Rawanchaikul
Navins of Bollywood 2006
Photography: Richard Eaton

This event formed part of Prologue 1: Altermodern (Saturday 28 June 2008).

More about Navin Rawanchaikul

Lindsay Seers

Born 1966, Mauritius. Lives and works: London, UK

Photography and what it signifies are the underlying themes of Lindsay Seers' work. She is engrossed by the conceptual and philosophical questions raised by the medium that relate to truth, imagination, memory and history.

Extramission 6 (Black Maria) 2009 is a quasi-documentary on Seers' life as an artist in which we learn that as a child she did not speak. This silence was possibly caused by a condition called eidetic memory (photographic memory). Seers first spoke at the age of eight when she saw a photograph of herself, asking: 'Is that me?' Her eidetic memory faded with the onset of language. This traumatic loss of her memory led her to 'become' a camera; she started forming images by inserting pieces of light-sensitive paper into her mouth and using her lips as the aperture and shutter. This passive process of 'ingesting' the world occupied her for many years. Eventually, however, she gave up her life as a camera to 'become' a projector emitting images in an act of extramission.

The projection of the DVD work is embedded in a cardboard model of 'Black Maria', Thomas Edison's first film production studio built in 1893. The building heralds a decisive moment in the development of photography into film. This work is the latest version of an installation that is reconfigured each time it is exhibited. It evades the boundaries that are traditionally set up between fact and fiction by asserting that the photographic medium collapses them, so that through the lens we reach a place where there is neither fact nor fiction.

Works in the exhibition

Extramission 6 (Black Maria) 2009
Mixed media and DVD projection
Courtesy the artist

Bob & Roberta Smith

Born 1963, London. Lives and works: London, UK

Authored under the guise of alter egos Bob and Roberta Smith, this artist's witty and bold work is rooted in conversation and debate. His diverse practice often manifests itself in performance, which is infused with a subversive humour. He also creates text pieces that emulate the language of protest or political sloganeering. Hand painted on scrap materials or directly onto the wall, the colourful work has a DIY aesthetic that has an immediate appeal. The sometimes flippant tone of the statements belies a genuine belief that art can act as an agency to promote change.

Each project is usually the result of a participatory process responding to a particular situation or location with collaborators actively involved in determining what is produced. Every Friday of the Triennial, Bob and Roberta Smith will bring a new piece that responds to other artists' work in the exhibition and is based on a weekly conversation with the show's curator, Nicolas Bourriaud, Gulbenkian Curator of Contemporary Art. This work will be exhibited at changing locations around the show. Once a work has been replaced by a new one in the following week, it will be moved to a storage area, in public view, in the North Duveen gallery.

Works in the exhibition

Off Voice Fly Tip 2009
Mixed media
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery

Simon Starling

Born 1967, Epsom, UK. Lives and works: Copenhagen, Denmark

Simon Starling is fascinated by the means through which man-made objects come into being. Often taking examples of early modernist design as his starting point, Starling puts them through a process of transformation, relocation or manipulation, drawing out convoluted narratives about their fabrication and the network of relationships they embody. His projects are characterised by a poetic, yet futile, circularity and a large investment of labour.

Three White Desks 2008-09 takes as its starting point a desk designed by Francis Bacon for Australian writer, Patrick White, during a stint working as a furniture designer in the early 1930s. Returning without it to Australia in 1947, White commissioned a joiner in Sydney to recreate it from a photograph but was never satisfied with the result.

In a process akin to Chinese whispers, Starling commissioned three cabinet makers in three cities relevant to the story to build replicas of the desk, working with only a single image. A high resolution scan of a vintage black-and-white photograph of the original desk was first given to a Berlin-based cabinet maker, a city in which Bacon first came into contact with avant-garde design. On completion of the desk, it was photographed and the image sent to a cabinet maker in Sydney, the process repeated and an image returned to London where it was recreated a third time.

By using a story of nostalgia, longing and dispersal, Starling investigates the relationship between contemporary modes of image transmission and issues of technology, craft, translation and the assimilation of the avant-garde into the mainstream.

Works in the exhibition

Three White Desks 2008-9
Mixed media
Courtesy the artist, neugerriemschneider, Berlin and The Modern Institute, Glasgow

Pascale Marthine Tayou

Born 1967, Youndé, Cameroon. Lives and works: Ghent, Belgium and Yaoundé, Cameroon

Pascale Marthine Tayou's nomadic existence, moving from country to country, informs both the subject matter and the materials he uses for his installations, drawings, films and performances. His practice combines cultural imports, in particular from his homeland, Cameroon, with objects accumulated from the specific locality of each piece. Often the items used or depicted - such as train tickets, cars, flags and postcards - are reflective of the way in which an outsider understands a new location through encounters with street-life and the experience of transit. By re-presenting the detritus of everyday living, Tayou exposes the economic exchanges that underpin the current world order. Ultimately, his work speaks of the fluidity of space, borders and identity.

Private Collection is an observation on past and present forms yet to be uncovered. These 'stones' are made from the plastics, silicon and other ephemera that surround us. They act as evidence of our 21st century culture, pre-empting an anachronistic archaeological project about the designation and the origins of objects. When the people of tomorrow discover the stones, what will they think about us and who we were?

Works in the exhibition

Private Collection, Year 3000 2008
Plaster, diverse objects, Bayangam dust
Courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin

Tris Vonna-Michell

Born 1982, Rochford. Lives and works: Southend-on-Sea, UK

The installations and speech performances of Tris Vonna-Michell are propelled by the presence of an audience. He creates detours, and sets up shifts in direction and content, to produce circular narratives that are based on personal experiences and historical events, both intimate and shared. He began using this format in 2005, developing several works in conjunction that continually merge and detach from each other. Delivered with manic urgency, often against a ticking egg timer, Vonna-Michell presents clues about their plots that are deliberately coupled with gaps in information.

The works attempt to connect different times and spaces, facts and absurdities by using devices such as stream-of-consciousness, visual stimuli, 35mm slides and props. Tenuous links are made between situations and objects, often creating cycles of events that are neither totally related nor disconnected. These works attempt to blur our understanding and disrupt the speed at which we process information in order to question the authority of the things we see, experience and remember.

For Auto-Tracking: from Cellar to Garret 2008, he drew from his experience of staying in Detroit for two months in early 2008. That experience formed the starting point for performances at Kunsthalle Zurich, Berlin Bienniale and subsequently at Prologue 1: Altermodern. Prompted by the same set of images, the artist told, in the form of chapters, three differing narratives of his experiences of Berlin and Detroit, his fascination with collecting objects and his family history.

Works in the exhibition

Monumental Detours / Insignificant Fixtures 2008-9 ongoing since 2003
Courtesy the artist and Cabinet, London

Prologue in pictures

Tris Vonna-Michell
Auto-Tracking: from Cellar to Garret 2008
Performance with projection.
Photography: Richard Eaton

This performance formed part of Prologue 1: Altermodern (Saturday 26 April 2008).

More about Tris Vonna-Michell

Prologue artists

Tania Bruguera

The Cuban artist’s intervention took place at Tate Britain during Prologue 2: Exiles.

The Cuban artist Tania Bruguera staged an intervention entitled p6_ta-prov(2008)029 in the galleries at Tate Britain as part of Prologue 2: Exiles, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 28 June 2008.

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban artist who divides her time between Havana and Chicago. Her interdisciplinary work focuses on the relationship between art, politics and life. Since 2002 she has been working on a series of projects in which she appropriates structures of power, creating political situations rather than just representing them.

Here, Bruguera instructed the curators to 'fly post' the Tate Britain galleries with pages from the directive on the return policy for illegal immigrants (P6_TA-PROV(2008)0293 – the title of the intervention), approved by the European parliament just a few days before the Prologue. In the manner of a protest, the pages covered the rooms and obscured interpretation panels. The intervention was 'activated by' a gallery attendant, employed by Bruguera, who read out loud passages from the directive whenever visitors asked questions, whether relevant to the intervention or not. By obstructing the usual appearance and function of the gallery and humorously blurring intended participation with the confusion of those taken by surprise, the artist encouraged the audience to engage with issues of migration and exile.

Bruguera was invited to participate in Prologue 2: Exiles but was unable to obtain a visa to enter the UK. Her absence, though unfortunate, resonated with the themes of the day.

Prologue in pictures

Tania Bruguera
p6_ta-prov(2008)029 2008
Gallery intervention at Tate Britain
Photography: Richard Eaton

Staged as part of Prologue 2: Exiles (Saturday 28 June 2008).

More about Tania Bruguera

Simon Critchley & Tom McCarthy

As INS (International Necronautical Society) the artists proposed radical inauthenticity at Prologue 4: Borders

Simon Critchley and Tom McCarthy pronounced the International Necronautical Society (INS) Declaration on Inauthenticity Tate Britain as part of Prologue 4: Borders, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 17 January 2009.

International Necronautical Society (INS) is an alliance of writers, artists and philosophers whose formal organisation and procedures follow those of early twentieth-century avant-gardes. In Declaration on Inauthenticity Tate Britain INS Chief Philosopher Simon Critchley and General Secretary Tom McCarthy attack the dominant, self-serving culture of 'authenticity' that pervades contemporary Western culture at all levels, proposing instead a practice of radical inauthenticity.

Prologue in pictures

Simon Critchley and Tom McCarthy
International Necronautical Society (INS) Declaration on Inauthenticity Tate Britain 2009
Performance at Tate Britain
Photography: Richard Eaton

Staged as part of Prologue 4: Borders (Saturday 17 January 2009).

More about Simon Critchley and Tom McCarthy

General Idea

Films produced by the collaborative group were screened at Prologue 4: Borders

Four films by Canadian collective General Idea (Pilot 1972, Test Tube 1979, Cornucopia 1982, Loco 1982, and Shut the Fuck Up 1992) were shown as part of Prologue 4: Borders, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 17 January 2009.

Founded in Canada in the late 1960s by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, General Idea was a collaborative group who produced witty and humorous critiques of modern culture in a variety of media. In 1972 they founded FILE 'megazine' aimed as 'an alternative to the Alternative press'. The publication openly pilfered from pop and mass culture whilst maintaining a strong focus on typographic design. This selection of films from across their career featured peeing poodles, crescent moons and spilled cocktails, all hallmarks of the group's lunatic inspiration.

Carsten Höller

A discussion of the artist's visits to the Congo took place at Prologue 3: Travels

German artist Carsten Höller presented Kinshasa Rumba Brazzaville, a slide lecture of his experiences in the cities of the Congo, at Prologue 3: Travels, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 18 October 2008. The lecture was followed by a discussion of the points raised.

Whilst acknowledging the troubles that have beset the region both historically and today, on this occasion Höller chose to emphasise those aspects of Congolese culture that those outside the country are rarely exposed to. Focusing on the capital, Kinshasa, he ranged over topics such as food and street-life, adverts and architecture, but his primary focus was the music that drew him to the country in the first place. The talk was followed by a discussion with Nicolas Bourriaud and audience members.

Prologue in pictures

Carsten Höller
Kinshasa Rumba Brazzaville 2008
Slide lecture at Tate Britain, featuring pictures from the artist's travels in the Congo, followed by a discussion with Nicolas Bourriaud and audience members.
Photography: Richard Eaton

This lecture formed part of Prologue 3: Travels (Saturday 18 October 2008).

More about Carsten Höller

Flàvia Müller Medeiros & Nasrin Tabatabai

These two artists came together for the first time at Prologue 2: Exiles, reflecting on notions of exile.

Artists Flàvia Müller Medeiros and Nasrin Tabatabai came together for the first time at Prologue 2: Exiles, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 28 June 2008. A discussion took place between the two artists in which they each took one of their previous works as the starting point to question and reflect on notions of exile.

In 2007 Flàvia Müller Medeiros spent time in the capital cities of the Baltic region as part of a 'Holiday in' residency, and became interested in the European Humanities University, a Belarusian university which relocated to Vilnius, Lithuania after its forced closure by the Belarusian government in 2004. Her video Untitled 2007 documents the making of the first group portrait of the politically displaced EHU students at the Contemporary Art Centre Vilnius.

Nasrin Tabatabai in her video Passage 2005 presented a portrait of an immigrant performing her daily life while selling magazines at a shopping mall in the city of Rotterdam.

Prologue in pictures

Flàvia Müller Medeiros & Nasrin Tabatabai
A discussion took place between the two artists in which they each took one of their previous works as the starting point to question and reflect on notions of exile.
Photography: Richard Eaton

This event formed part of Prologue 2: Exiles (Saturday 28 June 2008).

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Zoran Naskovski

The Serbian artist presented Death in Dallas at Prologue 3: Travels

The Serbian artist Zoran Naskovski presented the film Death in Dallas at Prologue 3: Travels, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 18 October 2008.

In Death in Dallas 2001, Naskovski presented a reinterpretation of the events surrounding the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963. Naskovski sets iconic archive footage to a ballad recounting the news in the Slavic tradition of oral history. Based on a recording the artist found in a Serbian flea market, the song is performed by Jozo Karamatic accompanied by a gusle, an ancient single-stringed Balkan instrument.

Prologue in pictures

Zoran Naskovski
Death in Dallas 2001
Photography: Richard Eaton

This screening formed part of Prologue 3: Travels (Saturday 18 October 2008).

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John Smith

A screening of the Hotel Diaries films took place at Prologue 3: Travels

A screening of John Smith's Hotel Diaries series of films took place at Prologue 3: Travels, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 18 October 2008.

John Smith's Hotel Diaries 2001–7 is a series of video recordings made in hotel rooms around the world between 2001 and 2007, all of which relate the artist's personal experiences to the current conflicts in the Middle East in the 'found' film set of a hotel room. Selections of videos from the series were screened, followed by a discussion between Smith and Tate Britain curator Andrew Wilson. The entirety of Hotel Diaries was also screened throughout the day in the Clore Foyer.

Prologue in pictures

John Smith
Hotel Diaries 2001–7
Video. The artist screened a selection of the Hotel Diaries and discussed his work with Tate Britain curator Andrew Wilson.
Photography: Richard Eaton

Presented as part of Prologue 3: Travels (Saturday 18 October 2008).

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The sound art and activist collective presented a performance at Prologue 2: Exiles

The sound art and activist collective Ultra-red presented the performance We Come From Your Future at Prologue 2: Exiles, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 28 June 2008.

For We Come From Your Future, Ultra-red collaborated with the anti-racist organisation The Monitoring Group to present a sound investigation into the future of anti-racism in the UK. The audience had the opportunity to contribute statements and to listen to invited speakers, including people who have been involved in the anti-racism movement for many years and those who have recently experienced racist violence, as well as participants in The Monitoring Group's 'Rural Racism' project, based in southwest Britain. The statements, written in the participants' different languages, were mounted on the wall after the discussions, forming a multilingual collage.

This event drew upon a series of sound investigations into the future of anti-racism in the UK. For more information and to hear the investigations visit the Intermedia Art pages on this project.

Prologue in pictures

We Come From Your Future
Workshop staged in collaboration with The Monitoring Group.
Photography: Richard Eaton

This workshop formed part of Prologue 2: Exiles (Saturday 28 June 2008).

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Nicolas Bourriaud

Gulbenkian Curator of Contemporary Art at Tate Britain

Nicolas Bourriaud is Gulbenkian Curator of Contemporary Art at Tate Britain, and the originator and curator of this show. Art critic and exhibition curator, he was co-founder and co-director of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris from 2000 to 2006. He is the author of influential texts Relational Aesthetics and Postproduction and has recently published The Radicant.

TJ Demos

Writer and critic TJ Demos took part in Prologue 2: Exiles

Writer and critic TJ Demos presented a lecture at Prologue 2: Exiles, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 28 June 2008. The session was chaired by architect Eyal Weizman

TJ Demos, currently lecturer in modern and contemporary art at UCL, investigates the ways in which artists operate in the context of an emerging global co-existence of political sovereignty and statelessness, and the relationship of contemporary art to the experience of social dislocation and political crisis. His most recent book is The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (MIT Press, 2007).

For Prologue 2: Exiles Demos explored concepts of exile with reference to contemporary art in the context of the 'altermodern'. The talk was followed by a discussion, chaired by Israeli architect Eyal Weizman.

London-based Israeli architect Eyal Weizman is currently Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University of London. As a practising architect he has worked on projects related to art and theatre and alongside this works with a number of NGOs and human rights groups in Israel/Palestine. He co-curated the exhibition A Civilian Occupation, The Politics of Israeli Architecture and co-edited the book of the same title. Weizman received the James Stirling Memorial Lecture Prize for 2006-7.

Prologue in pictures

TJ Demos
Lecture followed by discussion, chaired by Eyal Weizman.
Photography: Richard Eaton

This event formed part of Prologue 2: Exiles (Saturday 28 June 2008).

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Okwui Enwezor

Curator, writer, critic and theorist Enwezor took part in Prologue 1: Altermodern

Curator, writer, critic and theorist Okwui Enwezor, currently Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at San Francisco Art Institute, presented a lecture at Prologue 1: Altermodern, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 26 April 2008.

Okwui Enwezor is currently Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at San Francisco Art Institute. His lecture, Specious Modernity: Speculations on the End of Postcolonial Utopia, responded to Nicolas Bourriaud's definition of the new 'modern': 'altermodern'. The session was chaired by London-based writer, curator and artist JJ Charlesworth.

Prologue in pictures

Okwui Enwezor
Specious Modernity: Speculations on the End of Postcolonial Utopia
Lecture and discussion chaired by JJ Charlesworth.
Photography: Richard Eaton

This event formed part of Prologue 1: Altermodern (Saturday 26 April 2008).

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Jordi Vidal

A screening of the filmic essay Servitude and Simulacra took place at Prologue 1: Altermodern.

French philosopher Jordi Vidal's Servitude and Simulacra, co-directed with Stéphane Goxe, was screened at Prologue 1: Altermodern, held at Tate Britain on Saturday 26 April 2008.

Servitude and Simulacra is at once a filmic essay about contemporary thought, a curated exhibition commentated by its author, and a supplement to his book of the same title. Vidal has produced polemical statements against postmodernism and its reduction of modernism's promise of social equality and justice.

Prologue in pictures

Jordi Vidal
Servitude and Simulacra 2008
Film, co-directed with Stéphane Goxe.
Photography: Richard Eaton

This screening formed part of Prologue 1: Altermodern (Saturday 26 April 2008).

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