Steve McQueen Static 2009 video still, Tate © Steve McQueen.
Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery
Drifting backwards n forwards through an abstract space – there are few walls in the Blavatnik building – and the intense cacophony of clashing film installations explode across each other, from the Tate Modern’s annexe, out to an LED beyond – with urgent address, writes Kirsty Allison.
Since the Ealing-schooled Steve McQueen had his last major public show at the ICA in 1999, the year he won the Turner Prize, his lens has moved to the pulpit of cinema: Hunger (2008), Shame (2010), 12 Years a Slave (2013, and Widows (2018).
The curator informs us of their intent to create a “cruising environment” where the sounds of different film installations layer in an uproar against the racist, abusive control fictions of modern life. it’s about information and how it’s transmitted, beneath the irrefutable eye of Charlotte Rampling, a Foucaultian detournement, herself a victim of image and play.
On arrival we are greeted from the shadows of border control by the great mythical monolith of the Statue of Liberty. A helicopter circles the broken neoclassicism, oversized the sense of the peripheries, and picket fences.
There’s an essence of McQueen’s body in the space. Flicking his nipple. Lying on the bed of Reading Gaol aside Oscar Wilde. There’s a persistence, and loyalty to truth, whether it’s the never ending story of Paul Robeson’s attack by the FBI, in End Credits, where the despicable behaviour of redaction and concealment, and the protection racquet of abuse is documented tirelessly, this is a show of war, video as evidence.
The most upbeat piece is Girls, Tricky (2001) (listen to our podcast with Tricky on iTunes, Spotify, Anchor or via here: https://kirstyallison.com/cold-lips-podcasts/), but where short films are often weakened by construct, McQueen works with plain facts, such as 7th Nov (2001), and the horror of his cousin lying down, describing the day he accidentally shot and killed his brother – this is simple, direct cinema, it is new wave World Press Photo. It is art at its finest, telling stories which resonate with compassion, without phony pretentious explanation.
Response to Once Upon A Time (2002) The worship and the worshipped Warship ‘copter colonies Uniforms to demarcate As I travel from my ethnic supermarket corner To the deep marine world below Plastic Jesus African mohican fisherman on Muslim shores From sea secrets to tables of ice cream hedonism There are no black picket fences Upon the Great Wall
Response to Western Deep (2002) Diving in the veins of man K hole wormhole mine Latex finger stomach The fear Of confusion - dark passage Cargo people For all this noise Waste Red light Thermometer sweat Fitness test Death is the reward Camp of industry Earth Endoscopy Kaleidoscope of helmets Safety-first slave pits Wind with no vibration Fire without smoke Taking water to terra Silence on arrival Silence of doing Extract to exhume To chip away, drill, bass vibrate Raw core acceptance Of the earth Hospital eye Specialist Individual Time Relief, the dumb relief To leave
Steve McQueen with Paul Gilroy
Tate Modern, Starr Cinema
17 February 2020, 18.30–20.00. Tickets £12, £8 concessions
As Tate Modern presents the first major exhibition of Steve McQueen’s artwork in the UK for 20 years, this is a unique chance to hear the artist discuss his practice. McQueen will be joined in conversation by Professor Paul Gilroy from University College London. The conversation will be chaired by Clara Kim, The Daskalopoulos Senior Curator, International Art at Tate Modern. The evening will be introduced by Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern.
Steve McQueen: The Gallery to the Cinema
Tate Modern, McAuley Seminar Room
Every Monday 18.45–20.45, 24 February – 16 March 2020. Tickets £100, £70 concessions
A four-week course examining Steve McQueen’s gallery-based moving image work alongside his feature films, with presentations, discussion and screenings. Led by Richard Martin, Curator of Public Programmes at Tate, and featuring guest speakers.