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BMW Tate Live Thought Workshop Series
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Quarantine was established in 1998 by directors Richard Gregory and Renny O’Shea with designer Simon Banham. We make original theatre, performance and public events with and about the people who are in it. Whatever form it takes, our work begins and ends with the people in the room. Over the last 20 years, we've collaborated with a shifting constellation of artists, performers and people who've never done anything like this before. Our work seeks to create the circumstances for a conversation between strangers...

BMW Tate Live Thought Workshop Series

July 2013 - March 2014

If you had a year to change something, what would you do?

As Creative Researchers for BMW Tate Live Thought Workshop Series, we invited 30 people, through a call open to anyone and everyone, to explore the possibility of change through ideas in art, thought, technology and more. From July 2013 to March 2014, we explored, debated and interrogated the possibilities of real transformation in our society. We did this in a series of 4 thought workshops – with participants from backgrounds as diverse as GP, school student, television producer, mother, language school director, pensioner, fashion designer, neuroscientist and many more.

Each workshop took a different form in response to the group and the changes being proposed – they might, for example, have involved journeys or visits or lectures or eating together. Each workshop built on the previous one and the people in it drove the momentum for change forward. Whether personal, local or global proposals for change, we wanted to put together diverse ways of thinking about and seeing the world. We knew we might fail – we knew that was part of the project – but we also knew we would all learn something on the way, and take some steps towards making change happen…

For more information, and to follow a blog on the project, see www.tate.org.uk/thoughtworkshops


Thought Workshop 4

 Our final Thought Workshop was held on Sunday 2 March 2014 back in the East Room of Tate Modern entitled Beginnings and Endings. This time we were joined by writer and journalist Justin Hopper, illustrator Florence Shaw, and photographer Yemisi Blake who helped us to document our project.

Our Thought Workshop community shared with both them and us their experiences over the past few months, whether they had made any kind of headway into realising their ideas for change, or just how their thoughts and discussions within the Thought Workshops had developed. Capturing everything that came out of the day were the Ladies of the Press who compiled all these contributions whether verbal, written, drawn or photographed to make each of us a custom designed zine that everyone was able to walk home with at the end of the day.

After a final lunch from our now friends Mazi Maz, the group started to visualise an imagined future, drawing and writing on a huge role of paper a timeline of what had gone before, during the project, and what they hope to achieve as time passes.

And then our goodbyes, the Thought Workshop participants and guests leaving each other as friends and colleagues. Many of the group continue to explore their ideas of change and transformation today, inspiring others to consider their own answer to the question, ‘If you had a year to change something, what would you?’


Panel Discussion 

On 1 March 2014 our Thought Workshop community, along with a public audience, were joined by a number of high profile speakers to explore and debate the poignant question, ‘If you had a year to change something, what would you do?’

Our panel included Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti; columnist and author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, Owen Jones; award-winning poet and novelist, Ben Okri; and musician and creative director of the Radiophonic Workshop, Matthew Herbert. The discussion was chaired by John McGrath, artistic director of National Theatre Wales.

The speakers addressed our capacity for change and potential to creatively imagine the future, discussing whether utopian principles can be a catalyst for modelling change in society. 

View the full debate here…


Thought Workshop 3 

Quarantine & Tate Public Programmes decided that the next workshop should focus on interrogating ideas further, asking perhaps difficult questions.

Saturday 11th January saw our third Thought Workshop – A Reality Check – at Tate Modern.  We were joined by writer & dramaturg Florian Malzacher to talk about art and change, & then by 8 other ‘experts’ in various fields, suggested or inspired by group members for one to one sessions with them throughout the day,  In the evening we took over Studio C in the Poetry and Dream gallery to offer the public a chance to find out more about the projects.  You can find out what group members thought of their day by following the twitter hashtag #bmwtatelive.


Our experts were:


1. Florian Malzacher

Florian Malzacher is artistic director of Impulse Theater Biennale in Germany and a freelance curator, dramaturge and writer. He was co-programmer of the interdisciplinary arts festival steirischer herbst in Graz where he also co-curated the 170 hour marathon camp “Truth is concrete” that explored artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art.


2. Andreas Lang

Andreas Lang studied at Central Saint Martins school of art, London and design and at the Architectural Association, London. He was a member of the Interim Management Group, which governed the Architectural Association during the academic year of 2004/05 and was a curator of the ‘Alternative practice research cluster’ at the Architectural Association. He is the co-founder and director of Public Works and our friend from Thought Workshop 2.


3. Katie Harris

Founder of the social enterprise NANA, a comfort food and craft cafe hosted by older ladies from the local area of Hackney. NANA was successfully funded and launched by over 500 backers on Kickerstarter. http://www.wearenana.com/


4. Gemma-Tortella Proctor

Gemma Tortella is Curator of Public Programmes at the School of Life, devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. Having studied Anthropology at the London School of Economics she spent much of her twenties as a folk musician and cabaret performer before finally settling at the Institute of Contemporary Arts hosting Slavoy Zizek, Simon Reynolds and Grayson Perry.


5. Catherine McDonald

Catherine McDonald is Cabinet Member for Health, Adult Social Care and Equalities and Councillor for Livesey Ward. She worked in the public sector and in business before coming into politics. In Local Government Catherine has held the post of Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and in Westminster was adviser to a Minister on jobs in the last Government, then adviser to shadow Ministers in opposition.
…And, following a 1to1 with Catherine McDonald, one of the group has been invited to House of Lords to discuss his ideas with Jim Knight, ex-Education Minister!


6. David Hoyle

David Hoyle is an English performance artistavant-garde cabaret artist, singer, actor, comedian and film director. His performances are known to combine many disparate elements, from satirical comedy to painting, surrealism and even striptease, much of which is aggressive in nature. Hoyle’s work has often centred on themes in the LGBTQ community, attacking what he sees as dominant trends in “bourgeois Britain and the materialistic-hedonistic gay scene”.His performances have led him to become “something of a legend” on the London cabaret circuit.


7. David Cushman

David Cushman is an evangelist for (and author of) The Power of the Network. His blog FasterFuture.blogspot.com is ranked in the world’s top 5K by Technorati (of 300m). It focuses on the transformational power of social technologies and the new efficiencies and innovations they deliver. He has 20+ years experience in media, advertising, marketing and organisational change and is regularly invited to speak around the world on the impact of social technologies.


8. Scott Lash

Scott Lash is Professor and Director for the Centre of Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University. His books include Critique of Information (2002), Global Culture Industry (2007) and Intensive Culture (2010) and have been translated into 15 languages. Lash has directed a series of large-scale research projects on technological media from 1996 to present. He is currently running a project on the Chinese city, to be published under the title Local State Capitalism: Urban China

We’re currently working on a keynote with a panel of four and TW4 for March…


Thought Workshop 2 

We had our second Thought Workshop on October 26.  We realised that all the different ideas in the project were talking about kinds of utopias – so curated the day with that concept at the centre. We called the day A Rehearsal For Utopia.  There’s a fuller description of the day here on Tate’s website.

Fabulous food was provided by Mazimas – you can read their blog about the day here.


Thought Workshop 1

The first BMW Tate Live Thought Workshop took place on Saturday 27 July at Tate Modern.  It was a workshop about meeting – our first face-to-face encounter with a group whose ideas for change we’d read and been excited by; their first sight of each other – and most crucially a meeting of ideas.  By the end of the day we wanted to be able to leave with the start of an answer to the question of “What next?”

We began by asking the group to move around in the room, meeting for the first time, creating human scalars and vectors, positioning and re-positioning their proposals in relation to each other.   The group drew their ideas onto the windows of the East Room, tracing their thoughts across the city of London and beyond.  They each signed their work… (Note to concerned parties: Joseph and Marko from Tate wiped the windows clean once we left for the night.)

Philosopher Dr Michael Brady talked about ‘What We Might Think About When We Think About Change’.  He asked us to put our attention to the relationship between various goals – from the trivial to the important; easy to difficult; local to global; personal to impersonal; short-term to long-term.  And to consider the question: to what extent are the things we want to change the result of changes that happen to us?  (Here’s a hand out from the session from Mike – thank you Mike!) 

After lunch we spent time unearthing more detail about the ideas that had arrived in the room.  The group had the chance to listen to, question, support and challenge one another’s ideas.  We talked about what next…? How does this group become a group? How can we continue to develop our ideas for change? Stephen Devine from Manchester Museum talked about different ways of using social technologies to build a network for the group to communicate in the gaps between face-to-face meetings.

Then to a nearby restaurant for a meal and conversations and a last reflection from our jobbing philosopher.  And finally – goodnight.

The first Thought Workshop was everything we wanted it to be.  It was so exciting to meet with the group in all their diversity. The next Thought Workshop is on October 26th.  We’re hatching plans already…

 More commentary on the Tate website: Want change? We’re making it, right here, right now.



    BMW Tate Live is a partnership between BMW and Tate, which focuses on performance, interdisciplinary art and curating digital space.

    The programme investigates transformation in all its guises and aims to provoke debate on how art can affect change, intellectual, social and physical.  It features a series of innovative live performances and events including live web broadcast, in-gallery performance, seminars and workshops.