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02 May, 2009

The Raw Canvas plan

Posted by: admin In: Tate

When it was time to design a forward-looking extension to the already contemporary Tate Modern, the voice of the next generation needed to be heard. So it made sense to invite Raw Canvas – Tate Modern’s youth initiative – on a tour around the oil tanks.


The oil tanks remain from back when Tate Modern was a power station. What could fill them?

RC already meet regularly at Tate Modern. They commandeer the world-famous galleries to host activities like workshops, gigs, performances and debates exclusively for an audience of 15-23 year olds. Tate Modern want to encourage the potential such a group has for opening eyes and minds to contemporary art. But what RC want to do next is of a different order: create an area dedicated to interaction and conversation between members as well as a venue for performance, music, and film. What they proposed is a space that could act as a kind of art headquarters. As one member put it, ‘a place where your guard is down and your mind is open’.

As the meeting got underway, RC representatives called for a break with the main exhibition space, and many suggested looking for an alternative to the medical atmosphere of the contemporary white gallery. As Fiona wrote on Monday, a space for young people needs a distinctive style, and Raw Canvas members will choose everything for themselves. They wanted to recreate an old-fashioned interior, featuring hand-made designs produced entirely by the group and its extended community. Ideas of hand-stitched cushion covers and communally painted murals sparked excitement from all quarters. One member mentioned woven curtains or silk screen blinds that would divide up the space, making it more versatile for its changing role as a performance, exhibition or screening area. Others mentioned the appeal of existing buildings such as the FACT Gallery in Liverpool, or the changing Pavilions of Hyde Park’s Serpentine Gallery. The Forest Café in Edinburgh was for many the touchstone of an adaptable and relaxed space designed by its regulars. And, like the Forest Café, Raw Canvas would like to create a venue that could stay open late, where drinking would be allowed but the focus would be on the community.


The Forest Café’s ’shabby chic’ inspired the Raw Canvas group

This would be a place where young artists could curate any kind of event or exhibition they liked with the support of Tate Modern. They talked about a map of London mounted on a board where members could pin events, turning the RC space into a headquarters for contemporary art all over London. A whole wall could be given over to posters for gigs and performances they were involved with or thought the community might be interested in.

As the tour continued through the underground world of the oil tanks, ideas for designing the space also took root. A James Turrell–like design, where light could be let in from above through a cutout shape in the ceiling, could link the RC space with the Turbine Hall above. That way neither members nor the general public need feel too cut off from one another, whilst the setting provided a thought-provoking juxtaposition of artist and gallery.

From the Mood Board: An artist at work in a glass case at the Pompidou Centre, Paris

But perhaps the most revolutionary ideas that RC want to bring to the new Tate Modern are about closing the gap between art production and interpretation. The group are particularly keen to have more workshop spaces; the majority of Raw Canvas members are artists, designers, sculptors or art historians themselves. They want to see that the study of art is not isolated from the processes of making it, and that more artist-led courses could be offered as a hands-on approach to understanding the art in the gallery. Taking this to a whole new level, they also hope to work as an integrated part of the exhibitions themselves. They suggested gallery spaces designed as ’squares within squares’ that would enable groups such as theirs to run ‘interpretation areas’ that would not disturb the exhibition space itself but could allow the public to interact with them in the immediate context of the art.


Some of the Raw Canvas crew

And as if all that weren’t enough, Raw Canvas also want to lead the way in demonstrating creative and inspiring energy saving design. A lot of the members of Raw Canvas have been involved with product or graphic design have been made acutely aware of the importance of sustainability in their designs and would therefore like to play an active role in helping Tate and its audience to go green. Tastefully.

Read the original post on The Great Tate Mod Blog

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