Tacita Dean ‘Film’, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

To be invited to install a piece of work in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern must be one of  those moments when an artist feels ‘be careful what you wish for’.  It’s a hugely high profile commission, in a huge space.  Past successes have had a massive physical impact on the space – lights, mist, a crack in the concrete, a million porcelain sunflower seeds, and my personal favourite, a shadowy parallel world of small people hidden in a  sort of mezzanine.

Tacita Dean’s medium in film, and she has met the challenge with a large vertical projection on the back wall of the hall; sprocket holes along the side emphasise that this is film, not digital.  The physical material is important, and the accompanying literature explains that it is all part of the artist’s process to produce all the effects and the splicing together herself.  So although we see something which is light and reflection and essentially ephemeral, the process to produce it is one of craft and hands on work.

One review I read, even made the observation that this is the first of the twelve Turbine Hall projects to date which has actually been handmade by the artist themselves, rather than created under their supervision.

The projected images are an intriguing mixture of apparently random collection, chickens strutting across grass, a down escalator, a waterfall, red spots which turn green, occasional references to the works of other artists’ work: Mondrian shapes, or Gilbert and George stained glass, as well as the constant touching back to the view of the background wall of the Tate itself.

We watched it twice on the one visit to the Tate,  and saw different things each time.  As with most of the Turbine Hall works, one of the most pleasing aspects of the experience is how people come to interact with the pieces.  It’s a darkened space for the Film; people congregate in small groups both standing and sitting on the floor.  Children run around the large open space, and race up to the projection, colliding with their shadows, allowed to touch and spin and have fun and not simply stand still and look.

It’s a meditation on the fading life of film in the face of digital technology and yet the experience was one full of life and interaction.

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