BMW Tate Live: Paulina Olowska, Tate Modern

The latest in Tate Modern’s ongoing evening performance series, BMW Tate Live, sees a gallery transformed into a theatre space for Paulina Olowska’s project The Mother: An Unsavoury Play in Two Acts and an Epilogue.

In keeping with the BMW Tate Live programme’s remit of exploring and encouraging bold, collaborative and diverse approaches to live performance which cross the boundaries between art forms, the piece brings together the visual arts and the theatre. Set within Tate Modern’s Poetry & Dream display, wallpaper, handpainted murals, wardrobes, tables and chairs create a semblance of a domestic interior, albeit one which is surrounded by the Tate collection of works from Matisse, Picasso, Dora Carrington and André Derain. This set functions as an installation during the day and at night presents Olowska’s adaptation of The Mother: An Unsavoury Play in Two Acts and an Epilogue by the Polish artist and playwright Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. The play portrays the dysfunctional relationship between Janina Eely, a matron, and Leon Eely, her good-looking and clean-shaven son.

Two professional actors will play the role of the mother and the son, while Olowska’s friends and collaborators take on characters including the maid, the prostitute, the aristocratic party boy and the suspicious individual. The story takes place in a bourgeois setting in which hallucinations, schizophrenia, alcoholism, madness and drug addiction turn into surrealist mayhem.

Working across painting, performance, installation and also curating, Paulina Olowska’s work often focuses on forgotten figures of feminism, minor histories and popular aesthetics, quoting fashion photography, agitprop posters, graffiti, periodicals and signage. She has recently shown solo projects and exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Kunsthalle Basel; Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and she is the Aachen Art Prize recipient for 2014. Olowska and the artist Bonnie Camplin presented Usher We at Tate Modern in 2008, and her film Welcome to the Exhibition 2005 was screened in the Tanks as part of the symposium Performance Year Zero: A Living History in 2012.

The ticketed performances at Tate Modern will take place on Monday 21 September at 7pm and 8.30pm; Wednesday 23 September at 7pm and 8.30pm; and Friday 25 September at 10pm.

BMW Tate Live: Paulina Olowska, The Mother: An Unsavoury Play in Two Acts and an Epilogue, 14-27 September, Tate Modern, Bankside, London

For more information, visit

1. BMW Tate Live: Paulina Olowska Rehearsal for the play The Mother An Unsavoury Play in Two Acts and an Epilogue 2015, in Kadenówka Photo by P. Dudziak (07/2015). Courtesy of the BMW Group.