TACITA DEAN: FILM

23 Nov

Tate Modern, London, 11th October 2011-11th March 2012

Congratulations, you’ve made a screensaver twenty meters high. Even I find it impossible to be annoyed by something so incredibly banal and devoid of either artistic merit or any meaningful entry points for intelligent discussion. It would be like reviewing the blobs in a lava lamp. I’ll restrict myself to being annoyed by the massive screed that Dean has unloaded, in which she self-righteously informs us of how long and how hard she has slaved for us at the coalface of Proper Film Making:

“I cut my films on a Steenbeck cutting table. I always work alone. I physically splice the print and stick it together with tape… film is my working material and I need the stuff of film like a painter needs the stuff of paint. So I chose to make an experimental 35mm film inside the camera, and so revive spontaneity and risk. I wanted to show film as film can be, and use no post-production other than my normal editing process and the grading that happens in the lab.”

[Tacita Dean, text accompanying ‘Film’, also available as a leaflet]

Let’s try reversing this statement: “I paint my paintings on a canvas. I paint all my paintings myself. I physically brush on the paint and allow it to dry. Paint is my working material and I need the stuff of paint like Tacita Dean needs to congratulate herself. So I chose to make an experimental painting on the canvas, and so revive spontaneity and risk. I wanted to show painting as painting can be, and use no post-production other than my normal varnishing process.”

Yes, this sounds pompous, redundant and stupid. You could substitute almost any medium other than film and it would sound stupid. It’s a bit like listening to a postman tell you in detail how all your letters got sorted yesterday before he’ll agree to hand them over. It’s not a relevant or helpful form of information or dialogue with you. You’d just think: OK… what do you want from me, a medal?

Use whatever medium you like, but just get on with it. Don’t smug us to death because you’ve chosen to work with something difficult and virtually obsolete, as if that makes it (or you) inherently interesting or valuable. Doing this is a weird application of the Puritan work ethic to the making of art, as if personal or artistic merit is automatically earned through the (in this case self-imposed) hardship of making it. Obviously it’s a serious blow if you’ve been relying on a medium or a product for your work and it goes away, as Dean’s beloved film is doing, but to me that just reinforces the lesson that an artist’s work should be about the ideas, the quality and the content and not just about the side effects or physical limitations of your medium. If the reason for your work and your ability to make your work entirely goes away when the medium does, or if you fear that it might, then to me that doesn’t speak very well of your integrity or creativity as an artist.

By the way, I placed every pixel of this post individually by writing a unique computer program in pure binary code stored on a specially commissioned solid state silicon wafer. The completed blog was then transmitted via my own private, local offshoot of the internet that I built myself out of copper wire and lolly sticks. I have personally inspected every photon that is entering your eye, why doesn’t anybody else do that these days? I didn’t mine and refine the copper ore myself, though, or make it into wire. Sorry about that.

PS: I have a hilarious anecdote based on generally unknown information about Tacita Dean which is too bad even for this site, mainly because it also involves other people who don’t deserve to be publicly drawn into it. If you ever meet me, ask me about it…

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9 Responses to “TACITA DEAN: FILM”

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  1. criticismism » Blog Archive » Found Objects 28/11/11 - 28/11/2011

    […] another dose of vitriol from Alastair Gentry who reflects on the new Tacita Dean piece at Tate. I thought it quite good myself, but not so good […]

  2. LAZY CAREER SUICIDE BLOG 2011 RETROSPECTIVE POST « CAREER SUICIDE - 06/01/2012

    […] TACITA DEAN: FILM This article was really popular. Obviously Tacita Dean is… not so popular. Advertisement […]

  3. “CRITICAL POWER LOSS”: THE SAMSUNG ART+ PRIZE « CAREER SUICIDE - 26/01/2012

    […] is exactly what it sounds like: a video that shows a kind of handmade readout of the actual time. I’ve said it before in relation to Tacita Dean, and I’ll say it again: this is a screensaver, not an art work. It’s high concept in […]

  4. THE BEST POSTS OF ALL TIME, 4 « CAREER SUICIDE - 27/09/2012

    […] TACITA DEAN: FILM Tacita Dean […]

  5. ANTHEA HAMILTON: SORRY I’M LATE (I’M SORRY I WENT) « CAREER SUICIDE - 05/10/2012

    […] foyer as well. Again, credit to Hamilton for calling a screensaver a screensaver instead of doing a Tacita Dean and claiming it as […]

  6. Viyki Turnbull - 19/10/2012

    […] you’ve been reading ‘Career Suicide,‘ you might have, like me, been enjoying Alistair Gentry’s vitriolic take on art […]

  7. TANKS BUT NO THANKS « CAREER SUICIDE - 26/10/2012

    […] I feel the same way about Tino Seghal’s long-term installation of live people in the Turbine Hall. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the hype for it, this involves a fairly large team of people interacting with each other and with the public in various ways, which may include individually telling stories, playing chasing games, or singing together. On one hand it’s a commendable achievement by Seghal to make something like this work conceptually and logistically, and to have it play well with the general public. Tate deserve a lot of credit for the punt they took on staging anything like it in their flagship space for the same length of time and money as– for example– Tacita Dean’s tedious, pretentious screensaver. […]

  8. KANYE WEST « CAREER SUICIDE - 28/12/2012

    […] While I think West richly deserves to have his pretentiousness, arrogance and pomposity mocked, statements like the one above do make me think: based on this kind of assessment, how is Kanye West any different or worse than Tracey Emin, for example, or Damien Hirst, or any number of other successful (and critically lauded by the orthodox art world) contemporary artists? How is Cruel Summer less stupid, banal and egotistical than Tacita Dean’s work for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern? […]

  9. “LUDICROUS ANALOGUE NOSTALGIA” | CAREER SUICIDE - 21/10/2014

    […] been saying for years that old projectors and other modernist paraphernalia in art galleries are tropes, affectations, bourgeois set dressing […]

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