REVIEW: Performing for the Camera, Tate Modern

This bold and fascinating exhibition exploring the relationship between photography and performance has plenty to offer those who love photography and those who are willing to experiment. 

Masahisa Fukase, From Window, 1974. (c)Masahisa Fukase Archives.Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery. 

Yet again, Tate Modern has produced another mammoth exhibition that really gets to the heart of art. In this case, Performing for the Camera looks closely at how important photography has been in documenting performance work.

The exhibition features over 500 images that spans across 150 years, giving a detailed examination of the techniques used by photographers to capture important performance works such as Yves Klein’s Anthropometrie de l’epoque blue 1960 – a live painting event that used the bodies of naked women.

But the display also features a number of examples of how a series of photographs can be used to piece together an event as it unfolds, capturing a change of movement that takes place in a split second, changing the perspective of the scene. One such example is Kiyoji Otsji’s series of Gutai Photographs, that capture an artwork being created – showing the usefulness of photography in documenting important work.

This is something that is constantly revealed in the exhibition and certainly forms the heart of it. Filled with little snippets of information about how the image was created, almost encouraging potential photographers to use what they learn in the exhibition.

Yet somehow the scale of the exhibition means that it can feel overwhelming and repetitive in places – particularly towards the end of the exhibition as the images become self-indulgent.

The way in which the images are displayed becomes slightly more creative the more that you wonder around, not simply placing images on the wall and leaving it there, but display them in a way that draws your eye along to the next with ease and flow – the way in which they were meant to be seen.

Throughout the exhibition, there is a documentary feel about Performing the Camera that can make the display feel slightly cold and clinical – but nonetheless a fascinating experience whether you know a lot about photography or not.

It flows with great ease and style that you do find yourself really immersing yourself into all of the works on display that become increasingly challenging to witness that by the end you feel you really have been on a extraordinary journey on which you learn a lot. Deeply fascinating and engaging.

Performing for the Camera opens at Tate Modern on the 18th February and will be on display until the 12th June 2016. For those interested in the exhibition and want to learn more, there is also a book available to buy.

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