Tacita Dean – FILM Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

Filed in Reviews by on December 12, 2011

Tacita Dean – FILM
Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

October 2011 – 11 March 2012


You’re sitting in darkness on the scarred concrete floor of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and waves are slowly lapping towards you. The place is quiet, you are hushed and reverent like in a church and the tide is coming in. Then there’s a giant ostrich egg, slowly sliding downwards before you, and an enormous Un Chien Andalou style eye blinks through a cut-out hole. Once. Twice.
This is FILM, an 11-minute silent 35mm film projected onto a monumental white monolith standing 13 metres tall at the end of a gloomy Turbine Hall. This is British artist Tacita Dean’s contribution to the Tate Modern’s Unilever Series and her love letter to the medium of film; a celebration of, or perhaps an argument for, the old-school techniques of analogue film-making as opposed to digital.

FILM is non-linear, it is without narrative, it exists like an abstract painting, as an experiment within the very confines of it’s own medium. It is projected on a vast screen which takes advantage of the Turbine Hall’s breathtaking height. Consisting of a montage of black and white, colour, and hand-tinted film (using a colour palate which seems to reference the monumental Pictures of Gilbert and George), FILM includes images from the natural world as well as familiar appropriated stills. It reveals the massive wall of the Turbine Hall, but it is a projection of the wall onto a screen as opposed to the wall itself. FILM exists as a reflexive artwork, the title eluding to both the medium and the content. The Turbine Hall acts as both set and cinema, the images in the piece making us aware of the space that we are inhabiting; there are the industrial chimneys, there are the moving escalators, and there are us, the audience, as we sit dotted around the great floor, alone or in groups, slumped like dead bumble bees, becoming a visual extension of the piece itself.

I have always felt that it is impossible to make a piece of work to be exhibited in the Turbine Hall without the work being about the Turbine Hall. Certain spaces are too talked about, too coveted, deemed too important. Because of this I am often left cold by the exhibitions there. There is a sort of competitive arrogance by the chosen artists as to how little they utilize the amazing gallery. It is therefore ironic that Dean, using a material which occupies no space at all, still manages to transform the Hall completely. In using the wall of the Turbine Hall as her canvas she reiterates my own thoughts on the subject. FILM is a film called film about film. It’s in the Turbine Hall and it’s about the Turbine Hall. It is as beautiful as it is ingenuous.

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Beth Fox

About the Author ()

Beth Fox is an artist, writer and independent curator. She has recently exhibited work at Divus Gallery, London, Sluice, London, Angus-Hughes Gallery, London, the Horse Hospital, London and the Bunkhouse Gallery, Madrid. She was born in Ireland and lives and works in London. More information at: www.beth-fox.com

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