“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.