The first ever fully interactive exhibition that was staged at The Tate Gallery in 1971, by the celebrated American artist Robert Morris, will be reconstructed at Tate Modern this May. The Turbine Hall will be transformed when the seminal Morris installation is brought back to life for this year’s major arts celebration UBS Openings: The Long Weekend. From 22-25 May, visitors will be able to navigate the Turbine Hall by climbing, balancing, crawling, see-sawing and sliding on and around a series of architectural and sculptural elements, becoming part of this remarkable installation entitled Bodyspacemotionthings.
The original installation filled the Duveen Galleries of The Tate Gallery in 1971. It comprised large geometric objects, sculptures and architectural elements that the public were invited to physically interact with; a first for the Gallery. It received widespread public and media interest when it opened, however, neither Tate, nor Morris, anticipated the enormously enthusiastic response from the participating visitors to the work. Following a number of minor injuries it was closed after four days, due to the ‘exuberance and excited behaviour’ of the public. The exhibition re-opened shortly afterwards without the participatory element.
Robert Morris is working in close collaboration with Tate Modern curators on the reconstruction for UBS Openings: The Long Weekend. Using the original concept and plans for the exhibition, the work will be reconfigured to the Turbine Hall space. The 1971 exhibition was built using raw, unfinished materials, but Bodyspacemotionthings will be made using contemporary design methods and materials, including plywood, rubber elements and solid steel structures, which will bring the work up to current health and safety standards.
Robert Morris said: ‘It’s an opportunity for people to involve themselves with the work, become aware of their own bodies, gravity, effort, fatigue, their bodies under different conditions. I want to provide a situation where people can become more aware of themselves and their own experience rather than more aware of some version of my experience.’
Will Gompertz, Director of Tate Media, said: ‘Morris’s exceptional installation at the Tate Gallery in 1971 was one of the first truly interactive works of art, inviting and challenging audiences to participate. In the intervening years, Tate has continued to commission groundbreaking interactive art, a programme which now has become firmly established with UBS Openings: Saturday Live at Tate Modern. Recreating Morris’s work for UBS Openings: The Long Weekend in the Turbine Hall reminds us of the importance of that moment over 38 years ago when visitors first encountered a participatory work of art. It will be interesting to see how they respond this time round.”
Robert Morris first came to public attention in the 1960s when his work was initially associated with Minimalist sculptors including Donald Judd and Sol Le Witt. He also collaborated with artists and choreographers such as Yvonne Rainer and Simone Forti, developing an interest in the viewer’s perception and experience of object and space above the art object itself. This led to several early minimalist sculptures which acted as props for choreographic works. The 1971 Tate installation provided an opportunity for Morris to explore these ideas on a grand scale - he was not merely inviting viewers to interact with the installation, but actually choreographing their actions through his design of object and space.
The festival is part of the partnership between Tate and UBS which focuses on the Tate Modern Collection displays and is programmed to animate the annual rehang. This year’s festival is inspired by the opening of a new wing, Energy and Process, exploring Arte Povera, Post Minimalism and their legacy of merging art and life together by using humble, everyday materials and viewer participation. Building on last year’s four day event, which was a critical and popular success and attracted over 100,000 visitors, Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall will once again be transformed into a breathtaking venue to stage a series of remarkable, dramatic live events. There will also be a full programme of free interactive family activities, workshops and games aimed at all ages.