Last night I went to the opening of the new Tate Modern installation by Tacita Dean entitled “FILM”. This was a gathering of the great and good of the art world and um, me – because her sister is one of my best friends and consequently I have known the Dean family for 30 years. Chatting with her extremely proud mother, we mused about how unbelievable it was to find ourselves admiring her daughter’s work in the most coveted exhibition space in the global art world. She was most notably described by Simon Schama in The Financial Times as “one of the greatest living British artists” and thanks to her latest project has now become totally mainstream famous.
Working with 35mm film she pays homage to the dying art of analogue film. Her film is on display at the far end of the vast Turbine Hall and is a vertical block upon which her celluloid medium is projected onto a vast screen – an 11 minute looped silent movie, created inside a camera – a visual poem and a sort of ode to the death of film. Her chosen medium is under very serious threat. The rise and rise of digital film-making has meant that she is using this moment of fame to highlight her passionate campaign on behalf of the survival of film “otherwise we won’t see a projected film again, except in archives and museums”.
I don’t understand the narrative (yet) and will have to go back and read about it and watch it several times over, but it doesn’t matter – I suggest the first time you see it that you don’t try to understand it, just let all the imagery wash over you and enjoy the experience – knowing her work, you would be entirely mistaken to assume that nothing much happens. Starting with a mountain depicting the Paramount Pictures logo, there are images of waterfalls and fountains, leaves and buildings, smoke, water, her son’s eye and her partner’s toe and other intensely beautiful and mesmeric displays of cinematic technique to show film as art and there are no doubt messages, metaphors and references both in colour and black and white that I am yet to uncover:-
Part of her Turbine Hall project takes the form of a book, with contributions from artists, photographers and film makers who all care deeply about the future of film. Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Jean-Luc Godard and Keanu Reeves are among them.
I chatted with her at the after show party at the Globe Theatre:-
She was triumphant but exhausted. It almost didn’t happen. Last week all hell broke loose. We were meant to be meeting up in London but instead she was frantically trying to repair a mistake of “epic proportions” because at the 11th hour the original work of FILM was almost ruined by a negative cutter who wrongly spliced the film so that a white flash appeared on the screen each time a cut was joined (there are more than 170 cuts in FILM). She had to re-cut the whole work again. Some of the film in FILM went through Dean’s camera 10 times. Just imagine the stress.
Although here she is looking happy and relaxed and no doubt hugely relieved with her sister Antigone:-
It was such a privilege to have been part of this event. We are all so proud of her and the reviews have been brilliant. Just look at this picture I took outside – it doesn’t get much better than this:-