Tanks on the lawn

The tanks are opening at the Tate on July 18th. These are the very same tanks that stored oil in the days when Bankside served the function of generating electricity by burning Arabia’s finest. And if the ignoramuses in the Tate’s PR department start cooing, and they will – they will – about said tanks being the first of their kind to be used for exhibition purposes then, as is their custom, they will be talking bollocks. There is a marvellous military museum on the Hoy banks of Scapa Flow in which a massive tank used to service the wartime fleet with fuel oil has been turned into an informative and atmospheric film and sound display. Exemplary of its modest type, it is run by a knowledgeable, approachable skeleton staff.

The Tate’s tanks will be used to show film and performance, and other nonsense watchable only by those with a boredom threshold of hours learned at the knee of State Art’s robots. It opens with a 15-week ‘festival’ “celebrating performance and installation art and the historical works that have shaped it”. This will feature 40 artists from around the world of whom you’ve never heard of for the very good reason that they make ballbreakingly tedious films no one sentient could possibly watch for longer than it takes to fall unconscious under strong anaesthetic. ITV 3 suddenly seems appealing.

‘Highlights’ of the ‘festival’? “Aldo Tambellini will re-envision his seminal 1960s electromedia environments, examining space, light and sound through immersive projections and live musical and spoken word performances”. And if that isn’t tempting enough what about this: “Eddie Peake, an emerging artist who in a previous work choreographed a football game for nude players, will create a new commission for Tate Modern that explores sexuality and voyeurism.” And you can’t beat a bit of ‘exploring’.

The record-breaking attendance figures for The Tanks have already been leaked to the press and disclose that in 2015 more people attended said Rommels than watched Premiership football throughout the previous season when, coincidentally, Manchester City won the title for the third year running. The President-For-Life commented: “This proves definitively that Contemporary Art has an audience second to none. Far from tanking, The Tanks prove that Britain is leading the way in its adoration of Contemporary Art. And the part played in this triumph by me has recently been recognised by my elevation to the peerage as Lord of the Challenger Tanks.”

The rest of the Tate expansion will not be open until 2016, at which point it will surpass attendance figures even for The Rommels. It is conservatively predicted that by 2021 two-thirds of the world’s population will visit the Tate every fortnight. Visitors will all be shown collapsing ecstatically in devotion to the conceptual cause, like a crowd of North Korean midgets swooning over the mummified corpse of their leader.

David Lee

The Jackdaw June 2012