A whip-cracking Christmas at Tate Britain | Visual arts reviews, news & interviews
A whip-cracking Christmas at Tate Britain
It’s the time of year when Tate Britain unveils its much-anticipated, artist-designed Christmas tree. Over the years, we’ve had Fiona Banner decorating hers with unpainted Airfix models of fighter planes, while Sarah Lucas hung hers with stuffed tights instead of baubles. Tacita Dean vied between tradition and Minimalism with a simple arrangement of beeswax candles, while both Mark Wallinger and Julian Opie decided to forego the fir tree altogether: Wallinger opted for a bare, spindly aspen decked with mass-produced Catholic rosary beads, while, true to his cartoon/Ikea aesthetic, Opie’s contribution was a fake forest of painted trees made of intersecting planes of wood.
This year it’s the turn of a conceptual artist whose practice “celebrates the power of nothing”. Giorgio Sadotti is perhaps best known for a 1999 work entitled Went to America Didn't Say a Word. This involved flying to New York, staying overnight in a hotel and then flying back to London, all without saying a word for the duration of his stay. During his waking moments, a mini disc recorded his movements and interactions.
Wanting his Norwegian Spruce - in a work sibilantly entitled Flower Ssnake - to "maintain its dignity and timeless grace", Sadotti has decided to present his Tate Britain tree in all its naked, natural glory, completely unadorned. But that's not all. Tucked discreetly underneath the tree, which is installed in the gallery's Neo-Classical Rotunda, you'll find a coiled bullwhip, waiting to be used: on the twelfth night of Christmas the tree will be animated in a one-off performance that will see the spirit of the season robustly whipped out of it, an energetic perfomance for which free tickets can be obtained at Tate Britain's member's desk.
Whether it will be yelping in pain, as well as attempting to dodge the brutal lashes, remains to be seen, though one imagines its "dignity" might just be a little undermined.
- Flower Ssnake unveiled at Tate Britain on December 11, until 5 January, 2011
- Flower Ssnake performance on 5 January
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more Visual arts
Panorama of Pop art from Alastair Sooke ahead of the Tate Modern show
The distinguished writer and illustrator talks compensatory learning and the lure of Atlantic liners
The sculptor talks about his fascination with Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace and about the big ideas that inform his work
From a biography of Rimbaud to Annie Proulx's collage-like prose, we delve into the celebrated illustrator's literary tastes and habits
A forgotten photographer of the northern slums is rediscovered
The artist who wraps the world in gleaming copper wire – but to what end?
A dynamic art scene in Norway's capital is giving London and Berlin a run for their money
Powerful paintings that explore the Jewish émigré experience
The beguiling tone poems of an American artist
theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top exhibitions
Pioneer photographer who had an empathetic understanding of the Indian subcontinent
Just what is it that makes the kitsch-meister American artist so different, so appealing?