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Unusual supports Heather Phillipson commission at Tate Britain’s Duveen Gallery

Unusual supports Heather Phillipson commission at Tate Britain’s Duveen Gallery

UK – Artist Heather Phillipson’s latest commission, Rupture No 1: Blowtorching the Bitten Peach, has received rave reviews from the critics since opening at Tate Britain’s Duveen Gallery in May. The Guardian calls it a funfair ride to the end of the world while the Telegraph refers to it as the most ambitious and innovative pieces of contemporary art and the Evening Standard says it’s full of ideas and absolutely crackers.”

Originally planned for April 2020, Unusual Rigging was brought on board to handle the rigging for the commission, having worked with Tate Britain on a number of complex artist projects. Unusual’s Sam Carter said: “We first started looking at this job at the beginning of 2020. We were all geared up and ready to go when the world changed due to COVID. It then began to look likely that it would open in summer 2020, but again, that was not to be. So, when we got the call from Tate Britain earlier this year asking us to handle the rigging, we were delighted to get involved.”

As a result of the disruption caused by the pandemic and the financial hit that the museum sector took as a result of lockdown, budgets were more constrained, so Unusual came on board as an in-kind supporter of the commission. But working on a project like this during COVID was a very different set of circumstances to what the team was used to.

“Everything was done over Zoom,” explained Sam. “We have never worked like this before: doing everything virtually until installation. We had three artist impressions of the art – no plans – just pictures. It was all very strange but are we even Unusual Rigging if we don’t handle the weird and wonderful?”

Unusual started the installation in mid February, putting up ground supports for the red cloths that play a big part in the exhibit as well as various other infrastructure such as supports for the lighting as well and hanging lights, nets, bathtubs and tiny bugs to reference just a few items. “The cloths were 24m long so we really had to think about how we would transport the fabric and get it into the museum properly. Fortunately, the rigging components were quite small but the cloths themselves were heavy and awkward.”

The installation took place during the peak of the second wave. Sam and the Unusual team had already carried out several jobs adhering to strict COVID safety guidelines, but this was the first time for the Tate Team. Sam continued: “It was a pretty scary time for everyone, and we really didn’t know which way the tide was going to turn so there was a lot of apprehension. The Duveen Gallery gave us a big space to work in which allowed for social distancing but even then, every decision made has to consider the people involved and being able to work at a distance. It all came down to the planning and that’s really what a lot of the Zoom calls were about, making sure we had gone through all the logistics and choreographed our every move.”

Sam concluded: “Working with Heather was an absolute pleasure. She really appeared to enjoy collaborating with us and was grateful of the Unusual team’s experience of art installation and of Tate Britain as a building as it enabled her to work with us directly to problem solve and shape her ideas.”

photos: Tate

Unusual supports Heather Phillipson commission at Tate Britain’s Duveen GalleryUnusual supports Heather Phillipson commission at Tate Britain’s Duveen Gallery

13th August 2021

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