“I hate the word duration,” says Tacita Dean, whose films unfold slowly, skirting boredom to challenge even her most patient viewers. “I prefer length.” Her answer reveals her as a born-again structuralist. Length can be a material form of measurement: for example, a typical reel of 35-mm film is 1,000 feet.
Duration aside, time is a constant preoccupation of Dean’s, and one of the central subjects of her new film, JG, which was on view from February 7 through April 21, 2013 at the Arcadia University Art Gallery. In the above interview, she speaks softly but emphatically about time’s myriad forms, from the geological and the celestial to the biological or the structural. Watching JG one can easily get lost—not geographically (even though the film was shot in the desert), but rather in a psychological time zone, far from the tick-tock of daily routine.
JG was inspired by Dean’s correspondence with British author J. G. Ballard, regarding the connections between his short story, “The Voices of Time” (1960), and Robert Smithson’s massive earthwork and film, Spiral Jetty (1970). The film was commissioned by Arcadia University with support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. It recently showed at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris; and the Utah Museum of Fine Art, Salt Lake City.
About Tacita Dean
Tacita Dean was born in 1965 in Canterbury, UK. She studied at Falmouth School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art before moving to live and work in Berlin in 2000. She is esteemed for her drawings, photographs, prints and sound works, as well as her artists’ books and texts. She is best known, however, for her films, which she began exhibiting in galleries in the mid-1990s, making her one of the first artists of her generation to dedicate herself to the medium. She is fascinated by the dynamics between the materiality of celluloid and the passage of time, which she employs in the service of narrative, however apparent or oblique, and regardless of her subjects, which include artists, anachronistic architecture, and landscape. Characterized by static camera positions, long takes and ambient sound, her films are imbued by an uncanny stillness that elicits meditative forms of attention. Dean’s acute regards for light and subtle forms of motion combine to create singular evocations of sensibility and place, the spirit of the moment, and the essence of film itself.