Suzanne Lacy’s Silver Action

SILVER ACTION  01 & 03 Feb 2013

When the Tanks at the Tate (mod) were first opened last year, one of the installations caught my eye – convened by an American conceptual artist, Suzanne Lacy, it consisted of a timelapse film of a large empty space in a shopping mall being gradually set with many round tables which were then populated by a few hundred older women who did choreographed movements with their hands while they talked about issues that concerned them – then gradually left the tables and the space went back to being empty. There was, alongside, an audio tape (plus some quotes flashed up on walls) of presumably the same older women in conversation (which might well have been interesting if one could have heard more). To be honest I wasn’t very impressed but did think it might be an opportunity to flog a few books. So I contacted Suzanne Lacy (or one of her minions) and many months later was informed that another event would be taking place at the Tate Modern – Silver Action.

On the Friday February 1st attended a 3-hour seminar with nearly 30 other women – one of 9 such gathering held through the week.  The women came from all over the country and a large number of them were artists of various sorts, writers and academics. We were given various tasks (games) to stimulate discussion – the main emphasis (although we wandered a lot) was on campaigning and feminism. Some had been to Greenham Common and involved in other movements (I felt a  bit of a fraud but decided that launching U3A and Third Age Press had given many older women opportunities to develop new experiences, skills and challenge stereotypes – therefore  campaigning.). It was an interesting afternoon if pretty unfocused.  We did generate a lot of written material that was pasted up on a timeline and I did ask what would happen to it – assuming it would become part of the ‘artwork’ but got the impression that wasn’t likely to happen. (The seminar was mostly run by staff from the Tate Education Dept).

There were about 400 women involved in the Sunday (Feb 3rd) event – divided into groups of 100 each spending an hour in the ‘tank’ – where we could be observed by members of the public. We sat at card tables (4 to a table) in randomly selected groups. We were given a card on which were 4 questions to stimulate discussion.  We decided on 2. Describe something you witnessed, experienced or read that might have propelled you to action or activism. I was disappointed in the quality of the conversation at our table. There was a young woman sitting by each table making notes on a mobile phone (I assume) and we were told we would all have a chance to leave the group and tell ‘our story’ to a transcriber and our words would be flashed up on the walls of the tank –  but time ran out before I had a chance to speak.

There were members of the public wandering around but as they were confined to just the outer perimeter of the tables it was questionable how much they heard.

My favourite story of the day was from a woman at our table – she had been there earlier in the day and lined up to go in a hear/see what was going on when a couple of young families with kids joined the line and wanted to know what it was about. As she  explained it to the Moms, the Dads wandered up to the door, looked in on the assembled women then came back and said ‘No it’s  not for us – just a  bunch of old women. If they were strippers it might be worth it!.

 Did we constitute a work of art? What do you think.

And everyone I talked do disliked the ‘silver action’ title – which brings us back to the eternal problem – what do we call ourselves?

I did meet a very interesting woman  in the ‘holding area’ who does similar sorts of work in Scotland with all kinds of disadvantaged people and she told me about some of Suzanne Lacy’s other work and they did sound very worthwhile and fascinating – but art?

PS: I don’t mean to imply that, even if this is not a work of art, it is without value. Here’s a link to a short video about the project.