Uncomfortable Art Tours, London UK

was in London and took part in an “Uncomfortable Art Tour” at the Tate Britain, led by The Exhibitionist (aka Alice Procter: https://www.theexhibitionist.org/). The walking tour examines the colonial and imperial legacies of museums, collectors/patrons, and art practices. Rather than focus on the biography of the artist or the aesthetic elements that compose a painting, the tour asks questions about how national identity is represented in art, how art is part of the history of power, and the xenophobic ways that art communicates sovereign morals and character. The tours give space to the discounted and recounted stories and counter-stories invisible or absent in museum tours, texts, and education.

During the tour, Procter pointed out how below many of the official gallery wall labels, were labels that invited audiences to visit a URL wherethey could read ‘alternative’ histories and critiques of the artwork by what the UK calls BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) scholars, artists, and museum staff. Unfortunately, she noted, the labour of creating these ‘alternative’ versions is always unpaid. While seemingly attempting to ‘include’ marginalized voices, to do so at the cost of labour of the very people already marginalized within the institution seems a hollow gesture.

The work of feminist, anti-racist, and anti-colonial work, it seems, is not an institutional commitment, but the labour of queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. In a culture where the endeavor to materialize counter narratives always falls on those already oppressed, Proctor’s tours are a ‘walk’ in the right direction.