January 2008, !WOWOW! @ Tate Britain



Back in 2005, in an abandoned timber warehouse situated just off Peckham High Street in South East London, the Children Of !WOWOW! moved their illustrious squat parties into a semi legit venue. For an entire week the collective staged a series of talks, exhibitions and a grand finale party featuring bands and DJ’s that drew over two thousand people and the attention of the local Police. The parties also began to attract the eyes and ears of the art world, and 2007 saw a collaboration with Plastique Fantastique in Birmingham at the International Project Space. This in turn has led to the event held at one of London’s figurehead galleries, The Tate Britain.

As part of the ‘Late At Tate’ series which gives platforms to performances at both of the Tate galleries, !WOWOW! and Plastique Fantastique were asked to theme and produce an evening inside the regal Duveens space that currently houses a number of art works featuring as part of the Turner Prize retrospective. I am not a great fan of performance art at the best of times and my companion for the evening telling sums up the majority of work by saying ‘..if this was in a theatre then they would be laughed off stage, they can’t even be bothered to learn their lines.’ Of course this isn’t in the theatre and performance art in it’s very nature has no boundaries, but it’s not like the majority of performed work here even courts the edge of reason, it merely sits on a fence and annoys the viewer to distraction.



The theme delegated by the !WOWOW! co-operative is that of Prometheus, the Greek Titan whose myth depicts the theft of fire from Zeus, the stories created around his character have been represented by painters Gustave Moreau and Heinrich Fuger in the 19th Century as well as in 2006 by sculptor Scott Eaton. Tonight however the resounding phrase from the Tate’s regular and dedicated visitors seems to be ‘What has this got to do with Prometheus?’ Indeed I believe it is the very fact that !WOWOW! have tried to introduce a theme as if to appease the institution that it has taken away the sheer random nature of their previous events. At these it was acceptable to see Pagan carnivals and people lacking clothes standing on speaker stands. At the Tate Britain however it seems that the work and attitude has been limited by trying to announce an ability to tackle a set topic within their art. Previous events have provided a nature of ‘craziness’, and the variety of art (performance, video, painting, sculpture), has complimented each artist by allowing the viewer the freedom to absorb whatever they may choose.



It is also telling that tonight a number of the long term !WOWOW! populous are not featured, mainly those who paint or sculpt. There are things to take from the event. Adham Faramawy’s video piece is once again a merger of cultures, set to a heavy guitar riff. I envisage his work as a pop video for an insurgent group. His flashing images and mouthing lips subversively preaching the message from a black and white screen, enticing the viewer into a propaganda led war with western and eastern cultures in full collision. It is fair to say that ‘Time Wave Zero’ is one of the man’s better and more grown up pieces, and is possibly the one piece of work on show this evening that stands on it’s own in this environment, to a point of future inclusion in a similar building. The other video pieces are also commendable. James Balmforth, Tintin Cooper, Ellie Tobin and Rachel Haines have all appeared on flyers for events bearing the collectives name in the past, and prove that they will again in the future, with stand alone pieces that evoke a feeling of detachment from the paintings that hang on the red wall in ‘Room 9’, as well as the screening room.





If any performance piece stands out tonight it is that of Matthew Stone, although I am not aware whether he is present underneath one of the stones that dance around the gallery, the piece breaks the boundaries of the stage and moves within the viewer’s domain, taking away the safety of each audience members personal bubble. It is Mr. Stone who is surely responsible for the organisation of this event, although the group is keen to stress there is no leader, he is blessed with organisational skills that enable him to add an extra string to !WOWOW!’s slightly out of tune Violin, the instrument that will take them back to Berlin in just three weeks time, to a more familiar environment, and with the return those artists who do not wish to don various costumes, instead preferring to get their hands dirty with paint and clay. Here on known territory with no constraints of topic and a freedom to once again make the party one not watched over by their parents, I would expect the shackles to be loosened and the result to be a great deal more ‘crazy’, fulfilling and enjoyable than the walls of the Tate Britain would allow.


Oliver Guy-Watkins is a writer and curator living in London and Berlin. He is the Editor for Big Shot Magazine, as well as having work published in Senses (LA), The Rockit (LA), State Of Art (London and New York), Artrocker (UK) and White Hot Magazine Of Contemporary Art (online). His exhibitions have included a film screening by Tracey Emin and the group show ‘Ruhe Bewahren’ in Berlin. He has self published a book of short stories ‘Plow’d Garlic Hill’, and is currently working on a novella entitled ‘The Toe Thief’. He was born in the idyllic countryside of The Cotswold’s in South West England during the month of October in the year 1979. oliverguywatkins@hotmail.com




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