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I Spent the Night in the Tate Gallery, Listening to the Quiet Sounds of Art Activism


I Spent the Night in the Tate Gallery, Listening to the Quiet Sounds of Art Activism

Ellen Booth

It’s 5:20am in the morning, and I’m sitting on a small folding stool at the side of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. It feels strangely soothing as I sit listening to the musical night time sounds inside the Tate Modern. The drone of the air conditioning units forms the backdrop to a cacophony of dull repetitive chimes, scraping of chairs and cordons as cleaners work, distant frustrated clanging of management doors, and a ghostly gusting of wind through the corridors and rafters above.


Never underestimate the power of art.

I heard about an installation recently designed to get strangers in different cultures talking with each other over a video conferencing link.


One wonders if a similar initiative were to be taken at the MET or another popular U.S. museum like the Smithsonian if guards in riot gear wouldn’t show up to clear the place. These efforts would ensue due in part to their trained loyalty to the Energy moguls and also to the all-important practice of police brutality under the guise of protecting citizens from “terrorists.”


And is this ragtag group of vandals prepared to replace the tens of thousands of pounds donated each year by BP and other companies either related to BP or with significant investment in fossil fuels? If not, the day after the vandals leave, the floor will be washed and there will be no evidence they were ever there. And the Tate, like museums all over the world, will embrace whichever donor comes forward with the monies needed to keep the lights on.


It does’nt matter the result. It matters that we do not abandon or comfront with indifference: the earth and all those who have been. It matters that we don’t become part of the destructive madness with our own indifference. That’s why to write, speak, comfront with cival disobedience. Anne Herbert said it better.