Every time I go into the Tate Modern I want to turn around because there are just too many people; but for some reason, I always return. This time, I headed to see the Tacita Dean film entitled Film. The key theme of Film is pretty straightforward: it is an exploration of the dying art of the medium.
With the onset of digital film and photography analogue formats have become less and less popular. This is mainly due to the fact that digital formats allow for speed, which means that numerous shots can be taken or filmed to get the tight one, and in all honestly, digital is much cheaper. There are fewer and fewer artists who actually possess the technical expertise to be able to use analogue film and photography.
Dean has made a 35mm film inside the camera, which explores the inherent qualities of analogue film, such as spontaneity and risk. Spontaneity is embedded in the creation of images that are dictated by the moment rather than reshooting again and again; which essentially leads to the risk aspect of the analogue formats. Dean is also interested in the process of making the film itself. For Dean, it is a solitary process but one that is crucial for creating the end effect of the work; she cuts the film on a Steenbeck table, splices the print, and sticks it together with tape. She has not used any extensive post-production process aside from editing. With Film Dean highlights the alluring aspect of the analogue medium, which is found in its methodical production; essentially, the making takes on meaning in Film.
Film does not have a narrative, it is more about evoking feelings and emotions from its viewers. It is very ethereal; there are beautiful clouds, balloons falling, continuous movement, and colour changes. It is interesting to note that Dean has used the faded pictures at the end of the roll (where the colour filter changes) when most artists would consider them waste and would never be included in a film. Even though Dean was not aiming to create a nostalgic atmosphere, it has clearly become unavoidable – the ‘vintage’ quality and imagery encourages this sort of reading, rather than aiding any sort of escape from it.
In contrast to most works from the Unilever series, which actively include the viewer, Film is more distant in its approach. The viewers sit far away from the screen and watch the movie in silence. The film can really only be appreciated by traditional viewing, but I was surprised that noone was enticed by the humongous screen – I was the only one that went up close to get an idea of its scale.
I can’t decide whether Dean’s exploration into the threatening future of analogue film is too obvious; or actually quite poignant. I am leaning towards the latter, since the inherent qualities of Film point the beauty of film itself – the colours, the sense and experience of it, the movement, and the succession of images. I found that the work’s direct exploration of the analogue format was the best way to highlight its strength in the contemporary art scene.
After spending quite a lot of time in the Turbine Hall, I headed towards the Gerhard Richter exhibition, but after seeing the cue I quickly retracted and ended up in the gift shop (everyone’s guilty pleasure). Richter will have to wait until I can go to the Tate on another free day.