Photographic work 'Public Utility' by Tom Estes

being received at Tate Modern 

for the exhibition 'Bankside Views' by artist collective Black Dogs 

Public Collections


Bankside Views at Tate Modern

Tom Estes created a photographic work for 'Bankside Views', an event organised by artist collective Black Dogs as part of Tate Modern's Tenth Year Anniversary Celebrations. The work will be featured in a book 'Bankside Views' which is also destined for The Tate Modern's archives.

The remit for Bankside Views was to do something on why you LOVE Tate Modern. So I said that I loved Tate because after the local council run toilet closed I could go in and take a piss at the Tate without feeling like I had to buy anything. The organisers loved it but the people from the Tate looked really embarrassed!

The Photograph is of a Public Toilet that has recently been closed. The closure of public utilities has implications beyond public finance and budgeting: An increasingly large portion of day-to-day public life takes place in privately secured spaces. In recent years the growth of privately owned public spaces such as shopping centers, residential estates, university campuses, and commercial and industrial complexes have facilitated the mass expansion of social barriers tied to employment status and income. Consumer regulated marketing and urban environments evoke feelings of inclusion in relation to consumerism- or a need 'to buy' based on insecurity. The existence of private security forces suggest the desire of consumers to isolate themselves from ‘threats’ and manage risk through an expanded system of mass-incarceration based on surveillance mechanisms.


'Things' at The Wellcome Collection 

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to supporting the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. While the breadth of the Trust's support includes achieving extraordinary improvements in health, it also includes public engagement, education and the application of research. The 'Things' exhibition was devised by curator Keith Wilson 

"It is a flirtation with a potentially endless number of other stories that might exist out there, anchored in the reality of each thing itself. Members of the public will come with their stories which are there to be contested, not least by the objects themselves."

The Welcome Trust spends around £600 million every year, both in the UK and internationally, supporting the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. While the Trust aims to tackleimmediate priorities, their independence and long-term perspective also enables them to support research that will benefit future generations. This rounded view extends to work on the impact of biological and medical research. The Welcome Trust seeks to improve understanding of the ways science and medicine have developed, and how research affects people and society today, supporting research in universities and other academic centres in the UK and in overseas locations as well as managing their own projects and initiatives.



Serpentine Gallery

In response to the call to update Henry Wellcome's curious collection, I decided to donate an object that was used in one of my Live Art Performances. The Wellcome Collection is part of the Wellcome Trust, formed by Medicine man Sir Henry Wellcome, who held such a strong interest in human health and body that he gained a huge collection of medical artefacts hroughout his lifetime. As a contributor,  I was asked to deposit a chosen 'thing' at The Wellcome Collection. Behind the scenes the object was catalogued, photographed and labelled, allocated a specific date 09 December 2011 and placed on public display in a system of metal shelving and museum display cabinets.

Tom Estes comments on his choice of item:

My performance work to date has examined the relationship between work and play, professionalism and amateurism, institutional hegemony and self- organization. I like the idea of destabilising the view of the art object as an isolated thing in itself. So I suppose what I find interesting about including an artefact from a live performance in a public collection is that it touches on the problem of ‘sustainability’ of Live Art practice, the preservation of the work, and extending the life of the work beyond the ephemerality of performance itself. In my practice as a Performance Artist I am constantly exploring alternatives ways of stretching the possibilities of live art works and extending the life of temporary, one-off, site-specific, context-specific and ephemeral live art works, through the interweaving of documentation with various forms of social networking in order to reach new audiences.”


Serpentine Gallery, The Agency of Unrealised Projects

The Agency of Unrealized Projects (AUP) identity is designed by Liam Gillick and  is a project of e-flux in collaboration with the Serpentine Gallery. The Agency of Unrealized Projects (AUP)— exhibits a growing archive of several hundred unrealized art projects collated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and presented in the book Unbuilt Roads (1993). 

In his work Overlords, Estes approaches the theme of 'reality' by engaging with the variety and fidelity of sensory information found on the internet. Estes strives, not to break down this introverted, often self-imposed hall of mirrors; instead his theatrical interpretation looks at how dataflow from the virtual realm impacts on the significance and symbolism of real-world human senses.

Estes originally conceived 'Overlords' as a video installation comprised of images of 'Time Travel' projected on to a book called 'Local History and Antiquities'. The work was deliberately left incomplete. The display of the digital image- as the only reminder of the artist's original intention- points backwards to interrogate the capacity of the viewer to recognize the gesture of 'inertia' as ironic. Because irony always implies a 'double audience' – there are those who accept the gesture at face value and those who realize the gesture is simulated intentionally. 

The Agency of Unrealized Projects (AUP) seeks to document and display these kinds of works, in this way charting the terrain of a contingent future.Unlike unrealized architectural projects, which are frequently exhibited and circulated, unrealized artworks tend to remain unnoticed or little known. But perhaps there is another form of artistic agency in the partial expression, the incomplete idea, the projection of a mere intention? 

Though the state of being unrealized implies the potential for realization, not all projects are intended to be carried out. In other instances, artists deliberately leave works incomplete, to record very interesting "failures" or experiments. Other planned projects involve consciously utopian, non-utilitarian, and conceptual spaces that were not made available for realization. Whether censored, forgotten, postponed, impossible, or rejected, unrealized projects form a unique testament to the speculative power of non-action.

Images: AUP in Berlin in collaboration with the Berliner Künstlerprogramm/ DAAD

Tom Estes - 'Overlords' at Art Basel 

15- 19th of June 2011
The Agency of Unrealised Ideas, The Kopfbau, Hall 1 Building,

Messeplatz Basel (entrance through Time/Bank currency exchange)   





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