Monday, 21 September 2020

London Visits pre-lockdown, Tate Britain and Steve McQueen … part 7 …

 

I was off south from the Ladbroke Estate area to the National Gallery of British Art – now known as Tate Britain.

 

Millbank Pier - Tate connections

I hadn’t realised there’s a river boat connection between the two Tates … probably to be used only when I have plenty of time in London – rarely, if ever.

 



We need to go back to Tate Modern to explore Steve McQueen’ s exhibits … I didn’t stop for long to look at the 14 exhibits … some slides, mostly film and video … during February and March  there were some workshops –which slid in before the Covid curtain came down.

 



My approach to exhibitions is usually not to rush to do the write up – because over time I can learn more and don’t need to cogitate while I’m at the exhibition.

 

The link for the downloadable
brochure is below


I know who Steve McQueen is … as I’d been to see his highly acclaimed film ‘12 Years A Slave’ (an 1853 slave narrative memoir)– but knew little else – the medium is almost beyond my remit.  So this exploration has been interesting … and I can satisfy my own interest now – yet I can let us see relevant websites where we can learn more.

 




McQueen, who is of Grenadian and Trinidadian descent, was born in London in 1969 … fortunately, after some school institutional racism, his creativity gave him an outlet … and he studied art and design at Chelsea College of Arts, then fine art at Goldsmiths College, University of London – before honing in on filmmaking and video art.

 

He (c/o of Tate Modern brochure) is celebrated for his uncompromising vision … as his art combines an experimental approach to the moving image with a sensitivity to the social and political conditions we live in.  Many of his works are poignant portraits of place and time.

 

I rather wish I’d had time to explore … but now looking at the brochure (download below) … these are two that I’ve picked out (descriptions c/o the brochure):

 

Western Deep (2002)  The TauTona mine in South Africa, known as ‘Western Deep’, is the world’s deepest gold mine.  Employing more than 5,000 people, it operates twenty-four hours a day.

The film begins in complete darkness as the miners descend three-and-a-half kilometres (2.17 miles) underground.

McQueen documents an intense work regime where the temperature can reach over 90 degC,   accompanied by jarring sounds created by the mechanical equipment.  Western Deep is a hellish representation of labour that makes the silent resolve of the miners all the more powerful.

 

TauTona Mine logo
Having been down a mine – hardly any depth – I can appreciate what McQueen has done here … the film must awe inspire … and expose us to the horrors of earning a living.

(Running time 24 minutes – video, colour, sound)

 


End Credits (2012 – ongoing) is an ongoing project dedicated to the African-American singer and actor Paul Robeson (1898-1976).  A prominent civil rights activist, Robeson was blacklisted and put under surveillance by the FB from 1941 until two years after his death.

McQueen’s film includes thousands of documents from his FBI file, including annotated redactions acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. 

The documents roll past like the credits of a film, while voices on the sound track read from the documents out of sync with the image on screen.

(Running time 5 hours 38 minutes continuing video play - the audio goes on for 14 hours+)

 

Paul Robeson

I leave you to check out the available downloadable brochure describing the other 12 exhibited entries …  

 






Duveen Galleries showing some of the
billboards - they stretched along the whole
wall space of the galleries
Right – back to Tate Britain … where McQueen had/has another exhibition … this one is his epic portrait of London’s year 3 pupils (age 7/8) presented originally on billboards across London – but brought together into the huge Duveen galleries space at Tate Britain.

 



One of the less formal groups -
possibly from a special needs school
Again words taken from the blurb: Year 3 is considered a milestone year in a child’s development – when they start to be more aware of being part of a bigger world beyond their families and friendship groups.

 

The individual class photos are a microcosm of society, and were blown up into 600 monumental billboards or as here at the Tate gathered together in an epic group portrait, they are a testament to London’s great diversity.

 

Overview of a few of the class
photo groups
Every primary school in London was invited to take part in the project.  1,054 schools of every kind – state, independent, faith and special needs schools – took up the invitation: all in the form of a traditional class photo … 76,146 faces from the schools – that’s two-thirds of the city’s entire population of seven-to-eight year olds – an unapologetic celebration of multi-cultural London.

 




There’s true delight … on the faces of these children and their teachers pays testament to the work each photographer did to make them feel comfortable …

 

Duveen Galleries
courtesy of Rikard Osterlund



… then there are the reviews … wonderful descriptions … skewed ties, missing teeth, checked summer dresses, woolly tightsgrinning cheery kids - various websites to take a look at.

 



There may be no single meaning to “Year 3”, but that gives the portraits a social significance – which will reflect from the future back to the year 2018/19 when the portraits were taken.

 

Lastly coming this Autumn a miniseries:

 

Black Panther poster -
Letitia Wright stars
Small Axe – a British American anthology series, created and directed by McQueen is set to premiere on BBC One, and Amazon Prime Video.  I’ll leave you to look … three episodes are scheduled to open the 58th New York Film Festival on Sept 25th (Friday), while the Mangrove episode will open the 64th BFI London Film Festival on October 7th , 2020.

 



John Boyega by Gage Skidmore

However you might be interested to know that Letitia Wright of Black Panther fame, as too John Boyega of Star Wars fame both star … for more information see Wiki.

 

I will be keeping my eyes open for ‘Small Axe’ here on our screens in early October.

 

There’s a lot of exploring to do from these exhibits … and a greater understanding about Steve McQueen’s services to the visual arts … for which he received a knighthood in the 2019/20 honours list.

 

Photo taken in 2009
We have one last exhibition to see … up the road, on the way back to Victoria Station before my train home.  My timed ticket was 4.30 … so little hurting legs again put one foot forward – towards the Saatchi Gallery and the Tutankhamun treasures … and got lost!  Such is life … the day was worth it …


Steve McQueen (director) ... c/o Wiki ... 

Tate Modern - McQueen Exhibition ... the guide is downloadable from here ... 

New York Times article on McQueen ... 

"Year 3" exhibition at Tate Britain ... 

Small Axe (mini series) ... details re opening Film Festival opening dates in New York and London ... 


PS - sorry this is a mess ... but blame it on you know who = blogger ... I suppose I'll adjust ... really time-wasting ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

 

22 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks so much, Hilary, for this tour of McQueen at Tate Britain! Fascinating stuff...from delving into mines with "Western Deep" to his "Year 3" exhibition. Thanks for taking us along with you!

Joanne said...

wow - I've been waiting for this post since you had teased it. Oh My - I truly wish I could have gone with you and probably visited it for a whole week. It sounds crammed with goodies - so much to learn and see about this incredibly talented visionary. Thanks so much for your post.

Hels said...

Thank you, Steve McQueen! And Hilary.

Paul Robeson who was truly an amazing singer (and actor). So End Credits is a project dedicated to a brave man who clearly knew what would happen to him and to other civil rights activists in the USA back then. McCarthyism overwhelmed Robeson and ended his career in the dark years of the 1950s. What a hero!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elizabeth - thank you ... I was amazed to find out all the exhibits at Tate Modern when I visited - and now I've looked more closely .. I could never have taken it in.

Western Deep mine reminds me of my South African days ... I'd have loved to have seen this exhibit. The Year 3 billboards must have been incredible to have seen around London - and what an interesting way to record society's changes ...

Just delighted you enjoyed the look ...

@ Joanne - wonderful to see you ... I remembered you were so interested ... I hope you can look at the brochure - where more detail is given. You're right - actually if I'd known the extent of the 14 exhibits I doubt I would have gone in ... so it was a good thing I hadn't realised that extent ... and yes if we'd gone - we'd have needed a week ... lots and lots to see ... I'd have enjoyed a week in London with you!

So glad you appreciate the post and will enjoy looking at the links ...

@ Hels - many thanks ... yes, Steve McQueen has given our arts and film world much to be grateful for ... let alone the exploring and ongoing exploration into the files on Paul Robeson - exposing the unfairness of life for so many in the 20th and 21st centuries ...

... as you say 'what a hero' ...

So great to see the three of you appreciate this post - take care and stay safe - and I hope you enjoy looking at the various links - all the best Hilary

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I'm wasn't familiar with McQueen or his accomplishments until reading this. Your article is so informing. Thank you!

Teresa

Annalisa Crawford said...

What a fantastic summary of all Steve McQueen has achieved.

I often spend far too long at exhibitions, reading everything, and probably getting in people's way! Researching afterwards seems like the way to go.

Rhodesia said...

What an interesting post, your research always amazes me and as usual I learn something totally new to me.
Yes, I am not happy with new blogger but I guess we have no choice but to get used to it. The banks are also changing all their internet details and I am totally confused. The fact that one is in French doesn't help, and the other in RSA keeps saying pop into your local branch!!!!

Take care and stay safe, Diane

Chatty Crone said...

Not the Steve McQueen I knew. I'm wasn't familiar with this Mr. McQueen or his accomplishments until your sharing this. I learned a lot. Thank you!

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
I love McQueen's work - how great to be honoured with this exhibition. I shall look forward to Small Axe! YAM xx

Jacqui Murray said...

I can't believe how many places you go. If I'm ever in your neighborhood, I'm ringing your bell--and taking you touristing with me. You'll know exactly where I should go.

Elephant's Child said...

I knew the name but nothing of his work. And now you have incited my non movie going self to learn more. Much more.
Thank you, as always, for the work you bring into each and every post.
And Jacqui Murray is right. I would love to 'tourist' with you.
Mind you, I think I would also demand that we traveled by water between the Tates. At least once.

diedre Knight said...

An enjoyable virtual tour, Hilary! I had no idea there was so much to know about Steve McQueen. I agree essays on adventures are better once you've had a chance to savour the experience in hindsight. Seems there's always more I wish I'd seen or done ;-)
Take care.

Liz A. said...

Wow, lots to see. As for Blogger, it's actually getting a bit easier, once you get the hang of it. Although why they had to mess with it in the first place. . .

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Paul Robeson is one of those figures from history who is not so well known as some other civil rights activists, but was truly a man of great courage, talent and dignity, who as you point out was pursued and castigated relentlessly, even following his death. He was raised under the awful regime of Jim Crow laws in the United States (The Land of the Free..... All men are created equal.....one nation under god....) and suffered greatly when he attempted to right wrongs, and was pilloried by that obscene, disgusting Joseph McCarthy, and his career was ruined. It is an immense tragedy that black people are still being callously murdered there and in so many ways little progress has been made.

Botanist said...

I remember visiting the Tate with my parents when I was quite young, maybe early teens? I couldn't make head nor tail of a lot of the modern art (e.g. a whole gallery of nothing but white canvases) and I still can't, but there was a lot to be interested in all the same. My enduring memory though is of very sore feet!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Teresa – well that’s really good to know – thank you …

@ Annalisa – thank you … it’s useful to collect other reviews and then extract what makes sense to me … and select pieces that will relate to you the reader/commenter …

I’ve never been able to spend ages at exhibitions … because my knowledge, and thus appreciation, is limited – but having time to read and inwardly digest really helps increase my awareness – which is why I collect brochures, and print out (if appropriate) reviews that entice me to the exhibition in the first place.

@ Diane – many thanks … as I explained to Annalisa above … this is the approach I take – what Covid has given me … is a little more time to write up the posts … very slow, but sure …

I’ll make sure I have more time re new blogger and my next post – I’m sure I set mine up differently so I’ll try a couple of new things next time. Oh gosh – yes I guess I’d better do something about my Canadian bank … my SA ones have long been closed … thankfully I’m only working in English! Good luck with sorting these things out.

@ Sandie – I’m glad you appreciated this Steve McQueen’s accomplishments …

@ Yam – yes he’s such a good actor, director and visual artist … I vaguely remember he won the Turner Prize – but having just looked I see it was a video based on a Buster Keaton film … hadn’t looked before.

Excellent you’ve noted Small Axe – I intend to catch the series.

@ Jacqui – well I ‘dash’ through them … and if you’re down here – I’ll happily show you the Downs and our chalk cliffs … and the Towner gallery – but enjoy your company, while you’re here … I’m looking forward to the bell ring! Thank you …

@ EC – I hadn’t realised all he’d done – when I looked at Tate Modern’s brochure I was taken aback at how much McQueen had contributed to the visual arts. I’d never looked at why he’d won the Turner Prize in 1999 – now I know … it was a video he’d made on Buster Keaton, which I need to explore a bit more …

I really appreciate your support … and I’d be delighted to see you here at any time … and of course we could go on the water between the two Tates … and stay in London, I hope … giving us more time to explore other areas of London.

@ Diedre – well … nor had I realised Steve McQueen had done so much for the visual arts … so I’m glad I wrote the post up. As you say there’s so much to see and do – much more than we realise …

@ Liz – yes lots to see at all these exhibitions and to learn about. I’m sure I’ll manage Blogger – just do things differently … next time I need to have a slow post!

@ David – I need to read up more about Paul Robeson as I hadn’t paid attention to this part of his life … I’ve just ordered a book on the Jim Crow period – so I’ll absorb a little more I hope – it sounds an appalling time – I’ve never liked reading up about these things … so your words say a great deal and make a strong mark on my mind …

@ Ian – I’ve only recently in my adult years started going to galleries … and started taking in this side of life. I’ve learnt a lot since I started writing things up for the blog – it’s being a wonderful learning curve … long may it continue. I could do without the sore feet aspect – still the legs (and body) are/is getting a work out!

Thanks so much for your visits – great to see you and to realise how much you appreciate these sorts of posts. All the best - Hilary

Keith's Ramblings said...

The more I read, the more I learned about Steve McQueen and interesting it is too! This is the first year in many that I've not visited the Tate Modern and you've reminded me how much I miss it! What an interesting post .

Anabel Marsh said...

I absolutely love the Year 3 exhibition! Such a great idea, I would love to see it.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

What an interesting post that I am glad I read

retirementreflections said...

Hi, Hilary - I've been waiting for this post since you last mentioned it. It was everything that I was hoping for and more. I always learn so much here. Steve McQue was fascinating indeed. So much that I didn't know.

Mason Canyon said...

Hilary, such a fascinating post and an amazing exhibit. Sounds like it would be a delight to visit in person. Thanks for sharing and the virtual experience.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Keith - thank you ... I know I too my visits up to London - and I've been tempted ... but won't go. Just glad you enjoyed the post ...

@ Anabel - the year 3 exhibition in the Duveen Galleries was extraordinary ... I'd have loved to have seen some of the billboards, but sadly hadn't ... I agree - McQueen is such a visionary ...

@ Jo-Anne - thank you ...

@ Donna - appreciate your thoughts ... just glad the post matched up ... thank you ... and I hope you enjoy the links ...

@ Mason - I'd have loved to have spent more time looking at the exhibits ... but to have had the opportunity to visit and write this post ... I'll look out for more as time goes by - these exhibitions have opened my eyes: it's a medium I'm not that familiar with ...

Thanks for being here everyone - autumn has arrived ... just had the most enormous hailstorm - we much need the rain, but it's a shock to be in damp and wet ... all the best - Hilary