2014, Tate Modern
8m x 8m black cotton, human form.
Hidden Figures was a porous, unrehearsed performance open to everyone. Explore the black square and embody your opposition to BP’s sponsorship of Tate by manifesting a hidden figure. Join a team to plot your move.
We can’t help but look at Malevich’s Black Square with the knowledge that Russia was on the verge of revolution when this eerie object was created. It is an image full of foreboding and menace, as if something mighty is about to happen – as if a world is about to end.
Malevich’s Black Square was a blank slate, beyond representations of nature. Hidden Figures symbolises the black stain oil sponsorship makes on cultural institutions; the thick black redaction over the BP sum that Tate won’t reveal; the veil that Liberate Tate performers have worn; the figurative shapes these performers are making with their bodies.
Hidden Figures made reference to Tate’s refusal to disclose information about its controversial sponsorship relationship with BP. In April 2014, the UK’s Information Commissioner ruled that Tate was breaking information law by refusing to remove a series of black squares redacting information about the sponsorship deal in meeting minutes of Tate’s Ethics Committee and Board of Trustees.
Tate appeared before the Information Tribunal on 18 September to appeal the ruling that it must remove redactions from its governing body minutes. To mark the occasion, on 6 September, Liberate Tate reinterpreted Kazimir Malevich’s iconic ‘Black Square’ painting, which was on display at the time as part of the Malevich exhibition at Tate Modern.