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We Are All Experts

July 7, 2009

Last Friday was the third event of the Raw Canvas series “We Are All Experts” at Tate Modern.

(c) India Harvey

(c) India Harvey

The series was born out of the desire to see different voices rise in the gallery, to look at artworks in ways different than those proposed by the curated caption. Initially in the planning process we had thought of our experts as people with a specific expertise, but not necessarily the type of knowledge you would find in an art gallery: inviting, for instance, a chef or a fishmonger to talk about a still life, or a fashion designer to talk about the dresses in a given portrait, etc. Eventually, however, we shifted to actually devising an event in which everyone would learn to express their opinion with the confidence of knowing that it is valued within the gallery. In the end, “expertise” is the knowledge that one accumulates in life, and the personal systems of metaphors and associations that one carries inside can bring a whole new meaning to an artwork if they are shared in the gallery. Imagine all the new art histories that could be created!

As Raw Canvas is a group of young people for young people, we decided our experts too would be young people. You can find out more about them here. Our cast of experts for last Friday’s event featured law student, writer and dessert-appreciator Nuara Choudhury, arts foundation student and questioning mind Jack Davey, and film-maker and vegan cook Becci Geach, all under the age of 22.  We also had some improptu soundbites from Raw Canvas member Ella Perkins, and in the end we produced two as a group.

These where the artworks that came under our and our experts’ fire: Julian Trevelyan’s A Symposium, Max Ernst’s Forest and Dove, Anish Kapoor’s Ishi’s Light, Anselm Kiefer’s Palm Sunday, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Venus of the Rags, and a last one from the Arte povera and Anti-form room (Level 5, Room 2) which I actually cannot currently find on the Tate website much to my disappointment.

I can think of tons of brilliant reasons why We Are All Experts is a great project that I really believe in: it’s democratic, it makes you talk and listen instead of watch muted, it’s a welcome distraction for invigilators and sound technicians, and above all it values all voices, and dialogue and debate.

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