Tacita Dean: FILM
London SE1 9TG
11 October 2011 through 11 March 2012
The Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern is not so much a gallery as it is an extension of London. People who may not otherwise seek out an art exhibition will come wandering in from the Thames path, seduced by the vastness of the space which was once home to the power station’s massive generators. The Turbine Hall hosts a new show every year, and twelve years on, the people of London have learnt to expect greatness. The excitement starts to build from the moment posters advertising a new commission appear on the Underground.
Tacita Dean is the artist currently inhabiting the Turbine Hall. Her contribution, concisely titled, Film, flickers on a continuous loop against the far wall of the hall, silently dominating the massive space. The audience drifts around in the dark room, some making use of the lone bench towards the back, but everyone’s eyes are inevitably drawn towards the picture show.
It is strangely difficult to describe the film, even after having sat through several of the 11-minute long loops. The natural world features heavily: flowers, lighthouse, balloons, moving water. The images drift across the screen in what is a meditative experience for the audience. It may have been so for the artist too: British-born Dean, now living in Berlin, created the work from 35mm black and white film which she then cut and tinted by hand.
“Film is time made manifest: time as physical length – 24 frames per second, 16 frames in a 35mm foot. It is still images beguiled into physical movement by movement and is eternally magical,” writes Dean. She describes Film as a “visual poem”. Sitting on the concrete floor of the Turbine Hall, the bright images roll over you, the shapes and colours blend with the hum created by the crowd in the massive room. On the screen the sky changes colour, a clock ticks, an image of leaves starts to shimmer and turns out to be a reflection on water.
Dean, who has voiced her concerns about the future of analogue film, is clear in her intent for her Turbine Hall contribution: this is about the film medium. The finished work is a testament to the unique qualities of analogue, how it looks and feels, how it captures light and depth. There is something optimistic about the work being displayed in the rugged interior of this old power station, a relic rescued from decline to become one of the most visited art museums in the world.
The film fades against the concrete wall and the lights come on; the Tate is closing for the night. Politely but firmly we are ejected from Tacita Dean’s natural world and back into the city of London, ice cold this winter night but beautiful nonetheless. With the Tate looming big and dark behind me I hurry along the Thames towards the Underground, knowing it will be warm there. All these pieces are part of what makes London what it is; Tacita Dean is one of them now, because the Turbine Hall belongs to the city.