The Wedding Project
The idea was to take a wedding as a ready made event, and I liked the idea of the uncomfortableness of weddings as social occasions, and the conjoining of two groups of people, where two different families are plunged together, like the Tate attempting to marry a ‘new audience’. The event was self consciously spectacular, a ‘real’ celebration combined with a critical look at how public and private are blurred through televisual mediation.
The Wedding Project was a commission from Tate Modern before it opened, to follow on from the Tate Fete the year before in 1997. It was a very specific commission to happen in Borough Market and the brief was to involve both Tate staff and ‘local people’.
There was an intensive research process in Borough in the light of the change and gentrification that was being ushered in by the arrival of the Tate. This research resulted in the making of a documentary video Borough Market’s Double Life over a 24 hour period. The video was given to the Borough Market traders and shown during the wedding. Most of the market activity happened at night and was invisible to everyone who came to the wedding so the video was a way of showing them what happened in the market normally. The wedding itself was real and I looked for the couple whose wedding it would be and I found them, Eliza and Liam, through someone who worked in the Golden Hinde shop — the boat near Borough Market. They were going to get married in Finsbury Town Hall but they agreed to have their wedding paid for and turned into a piece of art. Their families were there plus a lot of people from the locality and a few passers-by. I still meet people who say they went to the wedding.
3000 traditional invitations were distributed within a certain radius around the Tate, to their target audience. I liked the strangeness of what would usually be totally private and within the family, becoming very public and random. The event was organised along the lines of a traditional white wedding. There was a civil ceremony done by Southwark registrars on the Golden Hinde. There were stalls where local businesses were selling their wares. Ingredients for the wedding came from local shops, craftspeople and businesses. The contents of the day were formed by conversations with Eliza and Liam. As she had Irish roots there was a ceilidh and Liam had a connection with Spain so there was Spanish tapas. Tate staff were ushers and they wore ‘Tate Modern’ luminous yellow coats. There was a lot going on, musical performances, poetry recitations, dancing, an MC, Valerio… It worked as a public and private event, bringing them together in quite an interesting way.
It was filmed by cameras on scaffolding towers that were positioned around the event. It was done before reality TV and Big Brother and before the whole thing of docu-soaps started to enter the public imagination. It would be very different now, but then it was like watching ourselves on TV. There were monitors on pedestals and it was filmed like a sporting event and mixed live by a professional video editor. The video element magnified the abundance of it all, the spectacular scale and nature of it, and confused the fact and fiction aspect even more. A huge number of people took part in the organising and production.
The video, along with a poster with all the credits, the group photo , a huge wedding album and other paraphernalia, were exhibited in a short exhibition at Bankside Power Station Visitor Centre — the Tate Modern before it was renovated. Neil Chapman wrote a piece about this afterwards that was meant to be performed as a lecture, but this never happened. There was a discussion called Blind Date, chaired by Iwona Blaswick, where Eliza and myself were part of the panel. The video has been shown recently in its own right at Bedford Museum in a show about weddings, and in Faltering Flame in Nottingham, curated by David Thorp.
The year after I finished The Wedding Project, Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie (www.somewhere.org) did the follow up project, which was connected to the Canterbury Tales.
Commissioner and venues
Borough Market and the Tate Modern Visitor Centre, London
Tate Modern Archive
Order of the day
Art Direction and decorations
Sebastian Lowsley Williams
Director of video
Second unit director
Live vision mixing and editing
Lennaart Van Oldenborgh
Audio Visual and Lighting
Insight Lighting: Brendan Clark, Matt Davies Konstantinos
Students at Southwark College Audio Visual Communications Department
Richard St Clair (System Sound)
The Medway Singers
Neals Yard Dairy
Konditor & Cook
Valerio Martinez Senior
The Wraggle Taggle Ceilidh Band
Sebastian Lowsley Williams