Collaboration with Abbas Zahedi

During the development of A Common Ground public programme at the Tate Britain, Abdullah Elias worked closely with staff across every sector of the museum and discovered stark imbalances within the institution’s social structure. The majority BAME service staff members had few interactions with the curatorial and administrative staff and were often poorly treated in comparison.

As a response towards this social imbalance,  the Live Archive interactive installation emerged, wherein members of the public were invited to partake in a shared meal. The work’s distinct relational aesthetic, hearkening back to Rirkrit Tiravanija and Augusto Boal, directly critiqued the Tate’s organisational practices by engendering the forms of interaction the institution lacked. Served in the 1840’s gallery in the main exhibition hall, the anachronistic disjunct between the contemporary form of installation and the antiquated space hinted at the archaic nature of the Tate’s customs and hierarchies.

The soup prepared by the pair was also imbued with its own critical poeticism, for it was made with nettles foraged from the Tate Britain employee garden—the only thriving plant in the garden. Nettles have invaluable healing and immunity-boosting properties, thrive in the harshest environments and are often overlooked or avoided, and were thus identified as an apt metaphor for the disparity in treatment between the security and service staff members of the Tate Galleries.

“We’re transforming the 1840’s gallery into a living space to meet, eat and connect. Hosted by artists Abbas Zahedi and Abdullah Elias, this space invites you to pull up a cushion, enjoy soup made with ingredients from the garden and engage in conversation and exchange with your neighbour.”

-Tate Britain Event Copy

A Seat at the Table, Tate Britain London