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The Unilever Series 2011 unveils the twelfth commission: Tacita Dean's FILM     
The Unilever Series: Tacita Dean, FILM 2011. Photo: © J. Fernandes, Tate Photography. Courtesy the artist, Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris.

LONDON.- Tate Modern has unveiled the twelfth commission in The Unilever Series by the artist Tacita Dean. Entitled FILM, the work is an eleven-minute silent 35mm looped film projected onto a monolith standing 13 metres tall at the end of a darkened Turbine Hall. It is the first work in The Unilever Series to be devoted to the moving image.

FILM is a portrait of the analogue, photochemical, non-digital medium of film. It was made by turning a Cinemascope lens 90º and upending the usual landscape format of the movie screen so it becomes vertical, scaling itself to the proportions of the Turbine Hall. FILM has been constructed using in-camera and studio techniques, such as masking, double-exposure and glass matte painting, to recapture the sense of wonderment generated by these skills during the early days of cinema. The images have been deliberately created during the film shoot rather than in post-production and edited by hand by the artist alone, evoking a sense of intimacy and a lightness of touch. Tacita Dean has placed her trust in the blindness and spontaneity of the analogue process in order, she explains, “to show film as film can be – film in its purest form”.

FILM is set inside the Turbine Hall and takes the appearance of a filmstrip with sprocket holes exposed onto the emulsion. The layering of imagery also conjures the transparency of a strip of celluloid, giving the appearance of being able to see through the screen itself to the wall of the Turbine Hall behind it. Playing with the distinctive architectural character of the east wall, FILM has the rhythm and metre of a visual poem. Images, some familiar from Dean’s previous works, such as lightning, trees and seascapes, juxtapose with panels of colour and interact with the grid structure of the wall. The resulting piece is a montage of black and white, colour and hand tinted images, including allusions to surrealist art, a Mondrian painting, and the mountains of René Daumal’s novel Mount Analogue and the Paramount Studio logo. Dean has also celebrated what is normally considered waste in filmmaking, such as the picture fading at the tail end of a roll, flash frames of over-exposure as the camera stops and starts, and the shimmering metamorphosis of a colour filter change.

Tacita Dean has worked with film throughout her career - it is her working material, and she has written that she needs “the stuff of film as a painter needs the stuff of paint”. In recent months she has voiced her concern about the declining availability and access to film as digital technologies become the norm and photochemical labs close down. With her project for the Turbine Hall and the accompanying book, Dean wants to highlight the threat that film is under, and the impact its loss will have on our culture and the future impossibility of watching over a hundred years of filmmaking in its original form. FILM seeks not only to invigorate this debate but also to stand as a testament to the distinctive qualities of this unique medium.

Chris Dercon, Director, Tate Modern said: “Tacita Dean’s commission for The Unilever Series is a response not only to the architecture of the Turbine Hall, but also to a particular historical moment. Our rapid shift from analogue to digital technologies threatens the medium of film’s survival, as well as our ability to experience and preserve it for future generations. This beautiful and radical work is an expression of Dean’s passion for film and its importance to visual culture.”

Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever said: “FILM, the twelfth commission in The Unilever Series, continues the tradition of innovative and inspirational contemporary art installations. We are very proud that our relationship with Tate Modern has enabled 26 million people to view some exceptional work in the Turbine Hall over eleven years, and we hope that those who come to view Tacita Dean’s work will enjoy the experience.”

The accompanying publication, also entitled FILM, is the result of an invitation to various practitioners and cultural figures to address the importance of film and analogue in the digital age. It includes texts by Tacita Dean and curator Nicholas Cullinan and contributions from a wide range of industry professionals, such as actors, archivists, artists, chemists, cinematographers, critics, curators, editors, film conservators, film directors, film historians, filmmakers, photographers, record producers and musicians, theorists, software designers and writers

Tacita Dean was born in Canterbury in 1965. She studied at the Falmouth School of Art, the Supreme School of Fine Art in Athens and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. She now lives and works in Berlin and has exhibited her work around the world, including solo exhibitions, most recently at MUMOK, Vienna and at ACCA, Melbourne; Schaulager, Basel; Tate Britain, London and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Dean was awarded the Hugo Boss Prize in 2006 and the Kurt Schwitters Prize in 2009. She also participated in the Venice Biennale in 2003 and 2005.

The Unilever Series: Tacita Dean, FILM is curated by Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of International Modern Art, Tate Modern, assisted by Iria Candela, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern.

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