English filmmaker and video artist. McQueen became interested in film while a student at Goldsmiths College, London. From his first major film, Bear (1993; see 1999 ICA exh. cat., p. 13), exhibited at the Royal College of Art in 1994, McQueen achieved swift success on an international stage with a body of formally very distinctive work. His black-and-white silent films, in which he often appears, are characterised by their visual economy and by the highly controlled environment in which they are projected. This minimalist and anti-narrative approach has been seen as an alienation technique, underlining McQueen's exploration of formal film language as well as popular cinematic convention. In Deadpan (1997; see 1999 ICA exh. cat., p. 31), he restages a Buster Keaton stunt in which a standing person is unscathed by a falling house wall, transforming a slapstick motif into a visually rich exploration of cinematic conventions. Typically, Deadpan is projected on an entire wall of an enclosed cubic white room, provoking a physical relationship between viewer and film. The 1998 sculpture White Elephant (see 1999 exh. cat., p. 41) and the use of stills photography in Current (1999) demonstrate the range and polyvalency of McQueen's work. In underemphasising the importance to his films of his own presence, McQueen avoids questions of identity and racial politics that are often imposed on his work, reinforcing a characteristically open approach to meaning. McQueen was the winner of the 1999 Turner Prize.
S. Howarth: Literal Encounters: The Films of Steve McQueen (MA thesis, U. London, Courtauld Inst., 1999)
Steve McQueen (exh. cat., London, ICA, 1999)
Turner Prize 1999 (exh. cat., London, Tate, 1999)
10 December 2001