Something has been brewing outside the Switch House. From our perch at Wallpaper* HQ – located directly opposite Tate Modern – we've seen a flurry of activity on the South Terrace. Early this week, somewhat disconcertingly, great clouds of white smoke began billowing from the curved parameter walls, punctuated by a series of alien white lights.
It turns out, it wasn't the landing of some extra-terrestrial space ship. Technical staff were testing a major new installation from 83-year-old Japanese fog-sculptor Fujiko Nakaya, which launches officially today. Nakaya, who first came to prominence through her collaboration with Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT) in 1970, has been working with water vapour for over 40 years. Her misty moments have adorned bridges in Bristol, the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and Philip Johnson's Glass House. This particular amorphous work acts as a barometer, reading shifts in atmospheric conditions – sometimes producing a faint mist, other times rocketing out great puffs of smoke. Of the work, Nakaya says: 'Nature controls herself. I try and let nature speak.'
Isabel Lewis' botanical installation in the Tanks Foyer. Courtesy of Tate Photography
Like all great fogs, Nakaya's work is concealing something. Underneath, in the Switch House Tanks, performative works are already installed. Hosted by artist in residence Isabel Lewis, the curated programme of live events – dubbed 'Ten Days Six Nights' – begins today. Lewis has transformed the usually stark Tanks Foyer into a kind of Brutalist botanical garden; a serene surrounding in which Lewis will welcome visitors, microphone in hand, while conceptual dancers perform around her.
'Echoes (Oracle Version)', by Lorenzo Senni, 2017. Courtesy of Tate Photography
At this point, performance art naysayers might head to the bar (or out onto the terrace to be consumed by the fog). But the programme of events is so diverse, there's bound to be something for everyone. Spread among the atmospheric South Tank, East Tank and Transformer Galleries, artists range in age (from 32 to 83), nationality (from Japan to the Dominican Republic) and work in every conceivable media. Even the most miserable skeptics will raise an eyebrow to Lorenzo Senni's funky neon trance installation.
It's a wide reaching project, in line with the institution's ambitious itinerary of 'Tate Live' events, which began in 2012. But, says director of exhibitions Achim Borchardt-Hume, it's essential to an institution's programming to feature live art. It's what the public want. 'In our connected, digital age, artists and audiences are ever more fascinated by live experiences, shared in the moment with those around them.' With this in mind, to fully appreciate 'Tate Live' events, we suggest you throw caution to the mist, and join in.