Tate Britain has unveiled a captivating and intriguingly immersive installation by Anthea Hamilton entitled The Squash, which skilfully transforms the grand space of the Duveen Galleries by combining performance, sculpture, fashion and dance. It has been created for the annual Tate Britain Commission, which addresses the heritage of the neo-classical space as a sculpture gallery, and will continue for the next 6 months until the 7th October.
The artist has modified the space into an elaborate stage for the continuous 6-month performance of a single character, dressed in a colourful squash-like costume. Fourteen performers from fundamentally differing backgrounds such as Royal Ballet vs street dancers, perform individually in an outfit of their choice from a selection of seven costumes, interpreting the space however they chose by sleeping, dancing, sitting etc determined by how the performer feels that particular day, to provide a differing and varying experience for the visitors. The seductively natural movement of the performer around the gallery mimics the reality of a plant to be rooted to the spot whilst subtly growing and tentatively exploring the space. The artist has designed the seven costumes as a celebration of the sumptuous squash in collaboration with Jonathan Anderson the creative director of the fashion house LOEWE. The beautiful tailoring and design of each outfit is outstanding and individually incorporate the colours, textures and shapes of varieties of squash or pumpkin with a beautiful and intricate attention to detail.
The Squash can be described as an installation of contradiction between the natural world represented by the performers in costumes inspired by squashes in an overly real, domestic, functional and everyday space, transformed with the use of over 7,000 white floor tiles. The tiles have been laid especially for the installation to span the length of the Duveens and encase a series large structures that serve as podiums for a number of works of art chosen by the artist from Tate’s collection for their organic forms and colours. The tiles create an immersive new environment within the neoclassical galleries which is enlivened and enhanced with the energy, creativity, contemplation and very real experience of the performers.
The artist was influenced by Antonin Artaud, the early 20th century French writer and dramatist who was interested in the ‘physical knowledge of images’, and it is this bodily response to an idea or an image that she wishes to examine in The Squash. There is a mystery in the story of the concept of the installation that focuses on the discovery by the artist of a photograph in a book which she photocopied, but then lost the source of the image. The image features a performer dressed as a squash in clear inspiration for the entire installation.
Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG
22 March – 7 October 2018
Open daily 10.00 – 18.00