2 for 1 – Rauschenberg and Tillmans at the Tate Modern

I decided that as I was going to the Tate Modern to see the Rauschenberg exhibition that I would buy a dual ticket and see another exhibition whilst I was there.  For the purposes of this blog I have separated them out and critiqued each individually.

Exhibition: Rauschenberg
Date: Saturday 1 April 2017 @ 11:00am

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was an American painter and graphic artist launched his career in the early 1950s and whose early works anticipated the pop art movement.

The Tate Modern helpfully produces a small exhibition guide, at least for all the exhibitions that I have been to so far.  This is invaluable when trying to remember what you have seen and where.

There were 11 rooms:

1- Experimentation, 2 – Colour, 3 – Combines, 4 -Transfer Drawings, 5 – Silkscreens, 6 – Live, 7 – Technology, 8 – Material Abstraction, 9 – Travel, 10 – Metal and 11 – Late Works.

In the first couple of rooms the two things that struck me the most were 1) Rauschenberg did not conform to the normal artistic approaches of the time and as a result created unique physical works of art/installations and 2) he had a talented number of people around him who were also pushing boundaries in their different artistic fields, for example, John Cage (1912-1992), a composer, being one of these individuals.  [As an aside I performed with the ENO Community Choir at the John Cage Musicircus centennial celebration on 3 March 2012 at the London Coliseum, which was amazing to be part of.]

In one of the rooms there were two works of art which Rauschenberg had created simultaneously but concluded that neither were duplicates or imitations of each other, as each had been created in its own right albeit sequentially.  Although the elements to make up the works were the same, the positioning of the elements and execution slightly differed.  In photography we prescribe to the fact that no two moments are the same and therefore no two images captured can be identical, so Rauschenberg resonated with me creatively.

Rauschenberg was greatly influenced naturally by the lifestyle he led being part of the dramatic arts group that he toured with.  He was involved with all stage activity including set building but also towards the latter part of his touring he became a choreographer and he then had performers acting/dancing around his sets/artistic creations.

I found this exhibition very inspiring in respect of the ideas that it sparked.  I normally attend photography exhibitions but this exhibition showed me that collaboration can (and should) happen across the artistic disciplines and that you shouldn’t feel constrained as a photographer to stick with the tried and tested but instead you should push boundaries and create like any other artist would.  I certainly intend to start pushing some boundaries now that Rauschenberg has given me the courage to do so.

Exhibition: Wolfgang Tillmans
Date: Saturday 1 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Wolfgang Tillmans (born 1968) is a German fine-art photographer. His diverse body of work is distinguished by observation of his surroundings and an ongoing investigation of the photographic medium’s foundations.  He became known in the 1990s for his photographs of everyday life and contemporary culture and for his pioneering method of displaying prints as whole room installations.

This was the first exhibition that I had been to which had such a strong social commentary running through it.  It was very different both in that the layout of the photography and written work which was all part of the installation.  You were able to move around the reading material viewing the images from different positions.

There was not the usual blurb for each room/work on the wall, which seems to be standard practice for large exhibitions.  Instead a booklet accompanied the exhibition as Tillmans wanted each room to act as an installation and wanted you to experience the collection without being concerned about the write up.  Also the images were taped to wall so you could interact with the image instead on a frame being its conduit for viewing.

There were 14 rooms in total which covered Tillmans interest in the photographic process and experimentation with it, his commentary on truth, experiencing places for the first time and recording this, his abstract works which looked inward and his interest in society and capturing cultural attitudes which looked outward.  There was a room where you could sit and listen to and appreciate studio music at the quality it was intended as opposed to through sub quality personal headphones.  Abstractions and textures were also Represented.

In one of the rooms he had a TV screen showing another part of the exhibition but it felt more like surveillance / CCTV of another of the exhibition rooms.

Room 4 in particular I found interesting.  It tackled the question around truth and in particular different assertions of the truth, particularly during the mid-2000s when claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction raised both political and ethical questions.  Tillmans used news paper cuttings as part of his installation which were deliberately laid out in provocative juxtapositions with his own photographs.

Another area covered was about the different biases that prevent you from being rational, here are some of them:

  • Zerorisk bias is a tendency to prefer the complete elimination of a risk even when alternative options produce a greater reduction in risk (overall).
  • Restraint bias is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control impulsive behavior.  Maybe one for the controlling amongst us.
  • Status quo bias is an emotional bias; a preference for the current state of affairs. The current baseline (or status quo) is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss.  I can relate to this.
  • Rhyme-as-reason effect is a cognitive bias whereupon a saying or aphorism is judged as more accurate or truthful when it is rewritten to rhyme.  I thought this was amusing.
  • Backfire effect, a name for the finding that, given evidence against their beliefs, people can reject the evidence and believe even more strongly.  I had never heard of this before.  

I do not know enough about the subjects Tillmans referenced in his exhibition or about the impact it has on the fabric of society but it gave me food for thought and I went away with some questions to answer in my own mind.

My main take away from a photography perspective was experiment and think about the message you are trying to convey in your work.


One thought on “2 for 1 – Rauschenberg and Tillmans at the Tate Modern

  1. Pingback: Part two – Project 2 – Research Point | BA (Hons) Photography : A Different Perspective

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