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Noreturn 2009 is a short film lasting sixteen minutes featuring a group of school children playing, reading, talking and ultimately sleeping in the cavernous space of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The film was shot during the last days of the artist’s installation for the Unilever Series commission for the Turbine Hall, entitled TH.2058. The beds, books, sound of rainfall, replica artworks and large LED screen that comprised the installation are all used in the film as props and staging for the children’s activities, which appear to be unsupervised, suggesting that the children may have taken shelter in the apparently abandoned space. The film’s soundtrack was specially devised and recorded by the musician Arto Lindsay, and provides a jarring acoustic accompaniment to the visual action. Light emanates from the massive LED screen installed in the Turbine Hall which displays flashes of bright light, while small LED lights positioned around the space create an evocative and futuristic atmosphere. The title of the piece, Noreturn, derives from a game the children play similar to the playground game of chase known as ‘it’. The words ‘no return’ are spoken frequently while the children play the game. The film was produced using a professional film crew and is in an edition of three. Tate’s copy is number two in the edition. The sound track was recorded while Lindsay watched the film.
Noreturn develops the theme of the installation TH.2058 which presented a hypothetical scene fifty years in the future, with the inhabitants of London taking shelter in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall from a never-ending rainstorm. Filled with four hundred bunk beds scattered with books, the animal forms of gargantuan sculptures, a huge LED screen and piercing lights that suggest some form of unseen surveillance, the Turbine Hall was given the appearance of an epic film set. TH.2058 was an exploration of some of the artistic ideas that have preoccupied Gonzalez-Foerster over the last twenty years. The notion of taking shelter in a public building, for instance, was partly inspired by both real and fictional situations in which London has been under attack, whether by flooding, bombing or invasion. It can also be traced back to the artist’s series Chambres (Rooms), a sequence of environments which recreated fictional or personal domestic spaces.
In the dystopian environment of TH.2058, replicas of the animal forms of sculptures by Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen have mutated, growing in size by twenty five per cent. Some of these artworks have ‘returned’ from earlier Turbine Hall installations, while others, such as Calder’s soaring Flamingo which stands at twenty three metres, have quite literally ‘come in’ for shelter. The inclusion of Oldenburg and his partner van Bruggen pays homage to their radical introduction of the ‘blow-up’, a distortion which has proved seminal to much late twentieth-century art. Twenty book titles have been selected and distributed on the beds. These illuminate the themes and thinking that underlie TH.2058, and include Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953), Jeff Noon’s Vurt (1993), Enrique Vila-Matas’s El mal de Montano (2002) and Catherine Dufour’s Le Goût de l’immortalité (2005). The books on the beds are visible in the film.
The use of TH.2058 as a location for Noreturn is representative of Gonzalez-Foerster’s continued reflection on her installation work through the medium of film. She has previously made films situated in the context of her installation at the 2006 São Paulo Biennial, as well as recollections on film of her contributions to various Venice Biennials. By partly fictionalising her already textured and referential works, her film pieces become a further episode or twist on the ideas explored in her installations. In common with the work of filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard or the texts of Chilean writer Roberto Bolano and Spanish author Enrique Vila-Matas, whose influence she acknowledges, Gonzalez-Foerster utilises a collage of quotations in her films, drawing attention to the ongoing project of modernism and the constant state of reference, allusion and ‘anthropophagia’ (literally cannibalising other art forms) that exists in late twentieth and twenty-first century art.
Angeline Scherf (ed.), Expodrome, Musee d’art moderne de la ville de Paris 2007.
Marta Gervano (ed.), Nocturama, exhibition catalogue, MUSAC, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon 2008.
Jessica Morgan (ed.), TH.2058, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2008.