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Published 08/08/2013 email E-MAIL print PRINT

Date with fate at the Tate

Felipe Ehrenberg

First published in Studio International, March 1971, Volume 180, Number 931, p92-93

On Tuesday morning, 20 October 1970, the incipient but short-lived International Coalition for the Liquidation of Art met to stage a demonstration at the Tate Gallery. Among those present were Stuart Brisley, Gustav Metzger, John Plant, Sigi Krauss and others. Felipe Ehrenberg, who sympathizes with the coalition’s ideas, arrived at the Tate dressed in a brown corduroy suit and a white calico hood with an opening for one eye, a cassette tape recorder hanging from his shoulder. He proceeded to enter the Tate Gallery. The following are excerpts from a recording of this event:

1ST GUARD: You can’t go in with that on.

E: Why not? (A group of uniformed men approach E).

SUPERVISOR: I’m not here to give reasons why, but I say you’re not going through the gallery with that on your head . . . please remove it if you wish to go in.

E: Ah, would you like to see my face?

S: I want to see that off your face all the time; you’re not going round the galleries with it on you. No, you can’t.

E: Well, you’re controlling my clothing items.

S: You are trying to cause a disturbance by going around with that on your face, sir, so will you please remove it.

E: I’m not trying to cause a disturbance.

S: Will you please put that off **** (struggle with mike) and remove that. You do not go in with that on your face.

SB: This is a public place.

E: Could you please give me a reason?

S: All right, will you remain there . . .

CUT: E approaches gallery entrance. Guards form a front.

E: Excuse me. I’m of the opinion that I’m causing more of a disturbance here - if you accuse me of that. I would like to see the works.

S: You . . . can see the works if you remove that thing from your face, sir.

E: Well you are, like, I don’t know why I should remove it. It’s like telling me to take my jacket off.

S: Mr Collier, this gentleman disagrees and thinks he can move about with that on his face . . .

MR C: No, I’m afraid he can’t . . .

E: . . . Why not? If you could give me a reason why I couldn’t . . . it’s like telling me ‘Take your jacket off’.

MR C: Why do you want to move around like that for?

E: Well, why not? You can’t control me wearing whatever I want.

VOICE: What’s the object of this, anyways?

E: I maintain I’m a work of art.

C: You do, eh?

E: Yes.

C: Well, unfortunately, we only allow works of art in here that the trustees decide we can show.

E: Well then, I’m a human being.

C: I’m sorry, sir . . .

E: I’m not a human being?

C: Yes you are, but I’m afraid we can’t let you walk around . . .

E: Well, could you tell me why not? This is a public place, open to the public.

C: Sorry, sir-

E: Well if it’s open to the public and I’m not breaking any laws then . . .

SB: Yes, is he breaking any law?

E: Am I breaking a law?

S: . . . I’m sorry . . . he’s not going past here. Not with that on his face. (Threateningly)

SB: Are you going to be violent?

VOICES: No, no, no, no violence. We don’t show violence. If there’s any violence, he-

SB: Well then if he . . . if there’s no law preventing him from going in there you should allow him to pass if he so wishes to go. If he wishes to look at the work in that condition, it’s entirely his choice . . .

E: I’m going to walk ahead. If you’re not going to use violence then I can see the exhibit, all right?

G: You’re not going through sir.

E: I’m not? Why, are you going to stop me? Physically?

SB: Are you going to use physical violence?


S: You are not going through!

E: Why not?

S: You remove that thing from your face and you may then go through, but not otherwise!

E: Why? Would I ask you to remove your jacket?

S: You are causing a disturbance now by arguing.

E: I think you’re causing the disturbance. If I was allowed to walk in, nobody would be disturbed. You’re causing the disturbance . . .

S: You have been already explai . . .it’s already been explained to you that works of art are only allowed in the Tate Gallery by permission of the trustees.

E: I am a Human Being.

S: You . . . have claimed to be a Work of Art.

E: I claim Mankind, Man, is a work of art.

S: Our trustees have not accepted you as a Work of Art-

S: So therefore we do not . . . um . . . intend to exhibit you anywhere.

E . . . I don’t want to be exhibited. I want to see what is exhibited.

S: You are exhibiting yourself now to quite a crowd . . .

E: If I had this mask on or not I would be exhibiting myself in any case . . .

S: . . . I have been instructed not to allow you in wearing that until we get a ruling.

E: Are you going to keep me physically?

S: I’m going to carry out my instructions. I already told you we are not using violence.

E: You’re not?

S: No. I hope that’s all going down . . .

E: Of course, of course. Well the thing I have on my ahead . . . if you’re objecting to my article of clothing then ah . . . this is an article of clothing.

S: No comment.

E: No comment?!!


E: I think I’d like to go in already.

S: Yes, I know you think you’d like to go in but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until we get a ruling, sir.

E: A ruling on what?

S: On you.

E: On me?

S: Yes.

E: Do you get a ruling on the private individuals that want to view the works in the museum?

S: We’re not prepared to comment any further all the time you’re recording that . . .

ATTENDANT: To tell you the truth . . . I don’t care whether you’re recording or whether you don’t. You take that off, same as you did with me this morning . . . and you can walk in this gallery as free as you like.

E: Aha.

ATT: All right? That’s all you got to do.

E: Well, why do I have to take it off?

ATT: Never mind about that. That’s all you got to do . . . I’m awfully sorry about it but I’m not . . . I’m only an attendant.

E: You’re an attendant?

ATT: Yes.

E: You’re an attendant and as an attendant you’re not letting me in with my hat on.

ATT: I’m awfully sorry I can’t. Until we get a ruling on it.

E: Oh, well, when will we get a ruling on it?

ATT: Probably about half past five, six o’clock.


E: . . . that I’m getting a ruling on this, I’d like to see somebody there. Can you phone somebody up in front of me?

S: We have already phoned; Mr . . .

E: I don’t believe you. I didn’t see you phoning.

S: You didn’t see me phoning because I haven’t phoned, but the gentleman has phoned.

E: Which gentleman?

S: I’m not prepared to discuss this any further with you until a ruling arrives. Now you can switch that-

E: I’m asking about the ruling, because I’d like to get in.

S: You’re wasting your tape now.

E: I’m not wasting my tape and oh, well, . . . so what? He, he. You’re suggesting I shouldn’t waste my tape?


E (addressing the supervisor again): Could you give me the name of the person I could approach personally? (Silence) What is your . . . L . . . H . . . L. Supervisor. Mr L., could you give me the name of the person I can approach, personally, to get into the Tate? (Silence) Mr L? (Silence) Well then, I will walk in . . . (L. grabs E’s arm) Mr L. You’re using . . . you’re going to use force on me.

L: I’m using no force.

E: Well, somebody is using force on me.

ATT: Ah, well. Ah, we are waiting . . .

E: You’re actually using force on me.

ATT: . . . for instructions. That’s all we got to do.

E: Well, then I’m asking you, as one person to another, who . . .

L: We have explained it to you that somebody is coming down.

E: I’d like to know the name of that somebody.

ATT: You’ll find out when ‘e comes.

E: When will he come? At five thirty as you said?

ATT: ‘e won’t be long.

E: I can’t wait until five thirty. I have to see the works.

L: You may see the works if you take that thing off your face.

E: This is a personal thing? Or is this a museum thing, Mr L?

L: The museum . . .

E: This is a museum rule?



L: Yes.

E: I debate your common sense, sir. I’m walking in.


L: There’s some gentleman coming now . . .

E: . . . You’re using force . . . You’re pushing me.

ATT: No, I’m not.

E: You’re pushing me.

VOICES: They’re coming now.

Three or four well-dressed men approach E, quickly and immediately lay hold of him in an attempt to shove him out. Several spectators watching incident prevent action.

E: Ah, he’s using force in keeping me from entering.

SECURITY OFFICER: Would you mind leaving the gallery, please?

E: I would like to know why, sir.

ATTACK (Two security officers and a guard lay hands on E).

E: You’re touching me. You’re touching me. I’m not creating a disturbance.

STRUGGLE (with microphone). E’s arm is strongly held and twisted.

E: You’re insulting me.

SEC.OFF: Get that away from him.

E: You’re touching me physically.

(They move off to call the police. E is held by attendant).

SIGI: You mustn’t! You know that! I mean . . . into trouble.

ATT: . . . this gentleman-(in whisper)

SIGI: But you mustn’t touch him!

ATT: Look, all right, I’m not going to touch him any more, let’s be careful.

E: . . . cause you just mangled me, sir. You just touched me and my finger hurts very much.

ATT (loud whisper): This man is . . . is allowed to come in as long as he takes tha’ off. Tha’s all i’ is. If’e takes tha’ off e’s as free as a daisy . . . free as wha’ever you are. Now why, Why can’t ‘e do it?

E: All right. I will take it off right now, and then . . .

ATT: That’s right sir.

E: . . . I will confront you because you have mangled me and I will accuse you to the police.

ATT: All right.

E: Because it’s all taped.

ATT: That’s right.

E: All right. I will accuse you to the police of actually using bodily harm to stop me from entering the Tate.

L: I have not touched you . . .

E: You have touched me and I have witnesses.

L: I have not touched you.

E (Turning to by-stander): Will you act as a witness that both touched me?

L: I have NOT touched you.

E: Mr L . . . H. L. You have touched me.

L: I am not prepared to argue any further with you.

E: All right. Then I will walk in. Thank you very much.

L: You may. You have taken that thing off.


On February 4 at the Sigi Krauss Gallery, Felipe Ehrenberg and other members of the Polygonal Workshop staged a ‘Rubbish exhibition’ (originally triggered off by the last dustmen’s strike) presented as a continuing situation in which the public’s ideas were processed by Polygonal Workshop.

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