Children love Argentine artist Pablo Bronstein. Or at least they love his 2016 Tate Britain Commission, a performance currently running all day in the Duveen Galleries (the grand hallway) at Tate Britain. When little ones wander in, more often than not they stop and stare, enraptured. What’s the appeal? Let’s break it down: three classically trained dancers make their way through the lofty space, performing movements that hover somewhere between baroque dance and voguing – a combination of classical formalism and modern minimalism. They wear comedy-size fake pearl necklaces. They glide, strut, mince and perform a series of hand flourishes. They confuse newcomers and get in the way of people trying to walk between galleries. Mostly, the performers move in silence, but at points, for around a minute, baroque music is piped in.
Marking out the performance space are two visually manipulated super-scale drawings of the gallery’s exterior that sit flush with the interior walls, giving the impression that the building has been turned inside out.
Known primarily for his witty architectural drawings, which exhibit a knife-edge balance between craftsmanship and cunning, here London-based Bronstein’s choreography is deliberately referencing sprezzatura, a sixteenth-century Italian term for studied nonchalance, used to describe anything from a courtier’s manner to Raphael’s painting style. Perhaps it is this out-of-time behaviour that youngsters find so compelling – the peculiarity of pastiche gestures and social codes, as the dancers move along with the ‘normal’ adults.
Some moments are more convincing than others, but still, this is an ambitious project, and the run (until October) is long for a sustained live performance. Ultimately, the procession feels fit for purpose, grabbing and holding people’s attention as they glide between the Hogarths and Hockneys. Those kids are on to something.