Tacita Dean: JG

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Tacita Dean (Installation view at Frith Street Gallery)
1/5
Installation view at Frith Street Gallery

Courtesy the artist, Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman, Paris/New York.

Tacita Dean (Still from 'JG', 2013)
2/5
Still from 'JG', 2013

Courtesy the artist, Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman, Paris/New York.

Tacita Dean (Still from 'JG', 2013)
3/5
Still from 'JG', 2013

Courtesy the artist, Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman, Paris/New York.

Tacita Dean (Installation view at Frith Street Gallery)
4/5
Installation view at Frith Street Gallery

Courtesy the artist, Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman, Paris/New York.

Tacita Dean (Installation view at Frith Street Gallery)
5/5
Installation view at Frith Street Gallery

Courtesy the artist, Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman, Paris/New York.

Tacita Dean’s sort-of homage to the late, great science-fiction writer JG Ballard avoids trotting out the standard Ballardian motifs of dystopianism and urban decay. Instead, this strange, searching film, made in response to a personal challenge by Ballard, takes as its subject the mystery and majesty of ‘Spiral Jetty’ – that iconic work of land art built in Utah’s Great Salt Lake in 1970 by artist Robert Smithson, and which may or may not have been influenced by Ballard’s short story, ‘The Voices of Time’.

Dean’s film is a meditation on time: spooling, winding, repeating, inscribing the epic formations of America’s desert landscapes. Shots oscillate between microcosmic and macrocosmic, water droplets and lapping lakes, saline crystals and vast salt flats, clock faces and distant suns. Dean’s editing technique, creates a layered, stenciled effect in which Smithson’s spiral appears as a negative shape cut into the main image, revealing different timeframes beneath. It’s all technically sophisticated and visually exquisite. Ultimately, though, it’s hard to shake the sense of the whole thing being a sort of cinematic exercise – an elaborate formal experiment.

In the basement gallery, a hundred postcards of pre-war Kassel in Germany have been over-painted to include contemporary elements of the same view – the rude intrusion of modern buildings, café umbrellas, advertising signs. It’s a far simpler and more obvious idea, yet the work is all the more hauntingly effective for it.

Gabriel Coxhead

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Event website: http://www.frithstreetgallery.com
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