Anne Imhof’s dynamic installation “Sex” is the first project by a solo artist to occupy the full suite of spaces in the Tanks, 22 – 31 March at the Tate Modern. It’s the third annual BMW Tate Live. Anne Imhof is sometimes said to be one of the most pioneering contemporary artists of her generation, awarded in 2015 with the Preis der Nationalgalerie, a long-term partner of BMW, and winner of the prestigious Golden Lion at Venice Biennale in 2017.
The commission is both an exhibition by day and a series of six live performances by night. “Sex”, the work deals with fluidity between binaries – female and male, top and bottom, night and day – and the blurred line where two opposing zones meet.
Structural interventions splice through each of the grand spaces. In the South Tank, visitors walk into the space on a raised platform, a scenario mirrored in the East Tank where the hierarchy of viewing is reversed, and visitors are situated on the ground beneath a pier. The adjacent Transformer galleries display a collection of Imhof’s Gradient and Scratch paintings, alongside elements of sculpture that intervene in the architecture.
Since 2012, Imhof has worked with a core group of collaborators from diverse backgrounds to make her performances. During six evenings at Tate Modern, they will inhabit the space while interacting with each other and engaging with situations and objects that serve as settings for their characters.
Imhof doesn’t appear in the work herself but is present, orchestrating the work and sending notes and directions to her collaborators. Power dynamics between performer and viewer are also a key component of “Sex.” Viewing positions alternate between high and low, shifting perspectives on the live tableaux.
Performers also occupy an inaccessible zone behind a glass partition in the East Tank, onto which they paint. Although the structure and score of the live work is developed by Imhof, what happens within the four-hour duration is dependent on the individuality of the performers, making each staging unique and unrepeatable.
Imhof is known for staging complex performance projects over long periods of time, such as “Faust” created for the German pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. The artist divided the interior with glass partitions and floors inhabited by a choreographed group of performers. Other recent projects have included “Angst”, presented in three acts at Kunsthalle Basel, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, and the Biennale de Montréal in 2016.
This year’s exhibition follows the first two BMW Tate Live Exhibitions in 2017 and 2018. These programs pioneered a new model for the exhibition format with an ever-changing series of installations and live performances across ten days. Taking place in the Tanks, the world’s first museum spaces dedicated to performance, film and installation, the BMW Tate Live Exhibitions have showcased a wide range of artists including Joan Jonas, Fujiko Nakaya, Isabel Lewis, Jason Moran, Mark Leckey, Jumana Emil Abboud, Wu Tsang and Fred Moten. (See AutoInformed on Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational)