Like more than a thousand others I was strolling round Tate Britain’s free 6pm to 10pm Late Night Radio evening last night. Various musical performances and experiences had been arranged, in and around the splendid 1897 building.
Blues harmonica player Errol Linton, for example, and a guitarist, were entertaining a big and contented crowd of people outside on the lawn consuming what smelt like very tasty barbecue food….a few Cornelius Cardew fans were staying put for a performance of one of the paragraphs of The Great Learning in the Duveen Galleris, dwarfed by metal geometrical shapes by Eva Rothschild (above) …. Late Junction fans were drinking Grolsch and chatting over some electronic re-sampling, and waiting for Keziah Jones… a few brave souls managed to find their way down to the auditorium in the Turner Wing to try out a soundscape by Max Reinhardt who had curated the evening, and Rita Ray, with a disturbing image on film by Grace Ndiritu….I saw people (adoring women, mostly)who were happily to follow saxophonists Finn Peters and Jason Yarde around as they strolled, playing with, and allowing listeners to enjoy, the echo of the building.
But mostly people were just trying things out, drifting, just enjoying the experience of being in the Tate.
It brought to mind a wonderful line of sixteenth century French sage Michel de Montaigne,
“C’est une absoluë perfection, et comme divine, de sçavoir jouyr loyallement de son estre.”
Pretentious, moi? Here comes the translation:
‘It is an absolute, as if divine perfection, to know how loyally to enjoy one’s being.”
What the Tate had done was to give a multitude of choices, of vistas, to allow everyone to simply find their own way to spend an evening in this wonderful building. A range of choices on a Friday evening of how to be oneself.
My choice of how to loyally enjoy my being? No contest: sitting in the corner of a room of Bomberg and Frank Auerbach paintings, hearing that uniquely happy phenomenon of British music Zoe Rahman conjuring joyous sounds and persuasive harmonies from a piano.
Each to his or her own, you will say. Which, in a way, is the point.
The next dates are Friday 4 September and Friday October 2nd. Tate will also start to use an amazing new space which I saw for the first time last night, the restored Parade Ground at Chelsea College of Art and Design, across the road. Details from the Late at Tate Britain microsite.