Wolfgang Tillmans @ Tate Modern


Emoji summary: 🌱 👀 ☁️

i don’t really like photography.

It feels like such a persnickety practice. v fussy. There must be so much attention to detail, and it just doesn’t feel compatible with the way I rationalise and make; i am v slapdash. Like just cropping a photo in such a way feels like the most kinda dramatic thing; ur changing composition and it feels like it must MUST be precise bc ur gonna print it out all nice on expensive paper with expensive ink in a slick frame & it must be the right resolution GAWD help u if ur finger was in the corner of the frame (mine always is). As a practice, it feels like such a restrictive thing.. like… rigid. And that makes me nervous when i look at it bc i rly don’t feel much other than that anxiety of ~perfect ah~. and my sun sign is cancer & my birth chart says i am an extreme empath. I need to feel at ease in a room.

I don’t think Wolfgang Tillmans has ever made me feel anxious like that. It feels like the focus is not the photo & it’s precision (technical skill n that). In fact, i don’t think i think ‘o, that is a photograph, this is photography’ which i find quite strange, but it also might be inane, i haven’t decided yet.

So this show goes down in my good books just bc i didn’t find it rly rly off-putting. sincere claps.

I will say that at the moment, i am invested in the practice of tenderness. It’s been a central logic in the way I think & rationalise since like… maybe last summer? maybe actually last January? i have held it close to my chest and my tiny hands have not let go, and i don’t want them to. bc i think tenderness is an important thing to think about and consider when making something for other people to look at or for other people to think things in front of (idk depends).

Bc without considering tenderness, i think Tillman’s show at the Tate Modern feels like flexing. Like a man with a camera who thought he didn’t wana be persnickety and just got really fuckin conceptual & loose. Like he took the camera and wanted to kick it in the eye but used it against itself. Without tenderness, the high ceilings and windy floorpan feels so angry. Like instrumentalised frustration kinda.

But there is tenderness. I can feel it. Some of the prints are very small, very sweet and placed high high up on the high high walls like special secrets. Those fun tables with the glass display tops: sometimes print outs are tucked away in an overlap and you only catch a glimpse as u trundle by - - - this feel so nice. Like ur on the hunt for something; like ur walking in a crowd and the artist’s eye catches urs for a second and for only that one second u kinda share a knowing look. like; hello friend, this is just for you. N i think my boy Wolfgang knows that and plays up to it. Like some of the biggest most overpoweringly large prints were of scruffy scraggly bits next to plants; innocuous scruffs. I like to think that was a way of leaning into that feeling of poking that nosy part of u, that he does it with a half-smile.

I don’t think i buy the whole spiel about sweet lad Wolfgang specially placing and orchestrating the placement of each and every print. I think that feels cold. I don’t wana believe it; that it is all so deliberate. I wana believe that the prints are on the wall bc they make the room ~feel~ a certain way. That it isn’t deliberate, just crafted (two different things, i think). (bc deliberacy feels like a master-plan, like genius artist manipulator, u r just a cog. Crafting feels like customer service being really good in fancy department stores. Crafting feels like ur feelings matters and r considered with high regard) (does this make sense, or have i lost u?) I like to think about the prints as significant in the space, but not that the space itself is the focus. I wana think the focus is u & ur eyes; seeing what our lad Wolfgang sees thru a lense. I like to think about it as a nice moment when he takes ur hand and says ‘oi, u, come look at this’.

i think i would have liked this show even more if the rooms at the Tate didn’t make me feel like I was in a big church. I would have liked it most if it was somewhere else. But nonetheless i still think I liked it. I liked it bc it felt tender. My favourite word for almost a year.


The show is on @ Tate Modern till 11th June

a picture is stuck at the top of a wall, and its hard to see what it depicts, a blurred landscape, a4

two images of frank ocean with green hair, one looking at the camera, and another topless with his hand over his face

someone stands at the corner of the gallery looking at images on the walls