Exhibition – Performing for the Camera

The Tate exhibition “Performing for the Camera” provided a wide variety of inspirational sources. Narrowing them down to the relevant was difficult owing to the vast amount of information available at this tremendously popular event.

Works were exhibited by:

  • Harry Shunk
  • James Kender
  • Charles Ray
  • Kiyoji Otsuji
  • Don Graham
  • Marta Minujin
  • Stuart Bailey
  • Nadar
  • Merce Cunningham
  • Eikoh Hosoe
  • Andy Warhol
  • Man Ray
  • Jimmy De Sana
  • Erwin Wurm
  • Keiji Uematsi
  • Ai Weiwei
  • Boris Mikhailov
  • Samuel Fosso
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Arthur Wojnarowicz
  • Jeff Koons
  • Hannah Wilke
  • Joseph Bouys
  • Sarah Lucas
  • Linder
  • Dora Maurer
  • Nario Imal
  • Jemima Stehil
  • Lee Friedlander
  • Tomoko Sowada
  • Amalia Ulman
  • Romain Mader
  • Martin Parr
  • Hans Eijkolbroom

I have written this list to help myself in future research. Following on from the exhibition, I have  continued to research a few of the photographers who caught my eye but to do the exhibition justice would have been a lifetime’s work. The other interesting thing about the exhibition was that quite often the performer was more important than the photographer, for example, Yves Klein, Niki de Sainte Phalle, Yayoi Kusami (an artist in her own right) and many others.. My prime interest was the work of the photographers and my conclusion was that as time has moved on the photographer has become more important.

Whilst touring this exhibition, I had in mind the artist Idris Khan, tabled in exercise 1 (the last blog) who had superimposed all the JMW Turner postcards in the Tate to make a composite. Why this thought carried with me, I am not quite sure but quite often I considered whether the same approach could be applied to some of the artists in the exhibition, for example Martin Parr’s series of self portraits and the work of Samuel Fosso, portraits in the style of famous people.

There is a short video by Simon Baker, the curator which describes the exhibition well.

It can be found at:



Romain Mader

I was fascinated by Romain Mader whose wedding photo is on the front cover of the exhibition book and on all the advertising but there was no obvious reason why?

Mader is Swiss and studied photography at the University of Arts and Design Lausanne in Switzerland.

This is a six minute video on Vimeo of the build up to his photograph entitled “Ekaterina”.


The video explains his obsession with a Ukrainian girl, Ekaterina, during his first visit to Kiev. The array of still photographs together with a few video clips of this first visit strike the viewer with the range of ideas of this young photographer. His composition breaks all the rules but the pictures strongly represent the story. There were no tourists in Kiev so he had to make his own entertainment visiting bars and places where he was likely to meet girls. When he found his goal, he became obsessive. On return to Switzerland he agonised over the style of portrait he would send to her. He then returned to re -find her. There is an intense sincerity in the images but just occasionally humour breaks through as in the video of him trying to dance. All obsession is directed towards Ekaterina. Finally he finds her and after a while, invites her to Switzerland where he asks her to marry him. Hence the photo of the bride with him in the foreground. He always makes himself the focal point.

An example of one of the stronger influences in this exhibition is:

Is this simply because he is so egocentric that the face of the bride is not required or is there a deeper meaning? Was he alone when he put his head behind the screen?

Other work by Mader includes:

Aliona (2014) in collaboration with Nadja Kilchhoffer



De Nouveaux Amis (2011)

De nouveaux amis, 2011

Moi Avec Les Filles (2009).

Moi avec des filles, 2009


Man Ray

A portrait of Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy.

Rrose Selavy was used as a pseudonym for Marcel Duchamp and over a period of time Man Ray produced a number of photographs of him. He used it from time to time, in particular in a title for one of his sculptures.
Jemima Stehli
This series of self portraits demonstrates man’s reaction to her ‘Strip’ performance. She has selected certain art critics to press the shutter when they wish but she is more interested in their reaction (shyness, bravado or whatever).
The style of woman in these pictures resembles those in some of Helmut Newton’s photographs, strong, muscular and overbearing. It is interesting that in this instance the male (Helmut Newton) and female (Jemima Stehli) interpretation are similar.
Samuel Fosso
Fosso is an African photographer working in Africa. His well known work is a series of self portraits taking on the personality of various well known African characters. My interest here is to look at different ways of taking self portraits. I know a little of Cindy Sherman’s work on Film Stills but so far, Fosso is a new find for me. This idea will go forward into my future work in some way as yet undefined.
The portraits are all serious works with a political slant / motive.

The works are not quirky, they are straight head and shoulders shots and the most difficult part in analysing them is to believe that they are not real people. In my case when viewing these pictures, I felt that they were all people who I had seen before in the media. How wrong I was.

Ai Weiwei

Finally the three pictures by Ai Weiwei of the dropping of a 2000 year old Han Dynasty urn:

These three black and white prints were produced in 1995.


Weiwei collected old urns and painted them bright colours. Also in the exhibition, “Ai Weiwei, According to what?” at which the above picture was shown, an array of repainted “Han urns” were shown in front of the triptych. The urn which was smashed in 1995 was said to be worth in excess of £1m.

This exhibition inspired a man called Maximo Caminero to destroy one of Weiwei’s brightly painted urns on the grounds that he disagreed with the idea of painting these valuable objects and spoiling them. He claimed to destroy Weiwei’s work, not the original pottery masterpieces. This sent the art world into turmoil. Whose art work was he destroying?

Weiwei is a prolific tweeter and I found the following quote on his Twitter page.

“It takes a wise Chinese man to remind us of the human tragedy that is playing out daily at our borders.”

This demonstrates that Weiwei’s thoughts are highly political and reflects his views on current Chinese politics.

“Art is the most peaceful and proactive form of change we have in this world”

This shows his devotion to art and starts to describe how he uses it to inform the world. He has created an extremely wide audience.

Ai became widely known in Britain after his sunflower seeds installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2010. Since then he has had various major exhibitions in the U.K. including at the Royal Academy in London.

He has a studio in Beijing, set up after returning to China from the United States in 1993. He is currently working on a number of large scale works using everything from marble and steel to tea and glass.

“Art Review” magazine branded him as “China’s most dangerous man” for his social politics. “New Republic” called him “a wonderful dissident and a terrible artist”.

He certainly turns heads at the Tate Modern.


This is a very brief summary of some of the works exhibited in the “Performing for the Camera” exhibition at the Tate Modern. It highlights the role of photography in making a permanent record of an ephemeral performance.

By carrying out this review I have increased my knowledge of a number of artists but also logged the fact that I will be returning to some of these groundbreaking experts for more assistance with my photography development in the future.


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