Tacita Dean, JG, 2013. Color and black & white 35mm film with optical sound, 26½ minutes Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London/Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris
Arcadia University Art Gallery is pleased to announce the presentation of JG by internationally acclaimed British-born, Berlin-based artist Tacita Dean. Commissioned by and made for the gallery, JG is funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and will be on view from February 7 through April 21, 2013.
JG is a sequel in technique to FILM, Dean’s 2011 project for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. It is inspired by her correspondence with British author J.G. Ballard (1930-2009) regarding connections between and his short story “The Voices of Time” (1960) and Robert Smithson’s iconic earthwork and film Spiral Jetty (both works, 1970). The new 26 1/2 minute work is a 35mm anamorphic film shot on location in the saline landscapes of Utah using Dean’s recently developed and patented system of aperture gate masking. An unprecedented departure from her previous 16mm films, JG tries to respond to Ballard’s challenge—posed to her shortly before he died—that Dean should “treat the Spiral Jetty as a mystery her film would solve.”
JG advances Dean’s aperture gate masking invention that she developed for FILM. This labor-intensive process, analogous to a form of stenciling, allows her to use different shaped masks to expose and re-expose the negative within a single film frame. Requiring that the film be put through the camera multiple times, the technique gives each frame the capacity to traverse time and location in ways that parallel the effects of Ballard’s fiction and Smithson’s earthwork and film. The process also serves to restore the spontaneity and invention that distinguished early cinema in comparison to the relative ease and what Dean calls “the end of risk” afforded by digital postproduction.
Among the masks used in JG is one that references the template and sprocket holes of a strip of 35mm Ektachrome slide film. Serving to explore the tension between the still and moving image that has distinguished Dean’s work from the outset, this Ektachrome mask is a reference to Ballard’s own 35mm camera, which Dean was given by Claire Walsh, the author’s longtime partner, just prior to the shoot and which is depicted in the film. The black unexposed outlines of the other masks—a range of abstract and organic forms that suggest mountain horizons, planets, pools, and Smithson’s Jetty, appear to be traced by hand. A work that could only be made using 35mm film, JG is also about drawing and collage and, as such, strives to return film to the physical, artisanal medium it was at its origin.
“Mindful of Smithson’s film of his own earthwork,” says Torchia, “as well the medium’s dependency on the spooling and looping of celluloid though camera and projector, JG proposes a matrix of visual and literary correspondences that pushes previously unimagined capacities of film. The result is a visually stunning, elliptical interpretation of a speculative conversation between Ballard, Smithson, and Dean that reaches across decades and disciplines.”
Publications | JG Events