Disappearance at Sea 1996

Tacita Dean Disappearance at Sea

Tacita Dean
Disappearance at Sea 1996

 © the artist

Disappearance at Sea 1996
16mm colour anamorphic film with optical sound, 14 minutes

Disappearance at Sea II (Voyage de Guérison) 1997
16mm colour anamorphic film with optical sound, 4 minutes
Courtesy the artist, Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris

These two films sit on either side of Fernsehturm, and were filmed at the same time in two different lighthouses to the north and to the south of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Disappearance at Sea was filmed in St Abb’s Head and documents the coming of dusk when the lighthouse becomes functional and the bulbs are switched on. The lighthouse is the last human outpost between land and sea, and time is measured in the gaps between the beams of light. To sailors, each lighthouse beacon is coded, flashing a different number of times each minute, so they can locate their whereabouts in relation to land. The presence of Donald Crowhurst as the genesis for this film is acknowledged, as much as anything, in the title. Disappearance at Sea II was filmed in the Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands, famous for Grace Darling’s epic rescue. The camera was put where the bulb would normally be and rotates like the beam of the lighthouse. Filmed this time in daylight, the rotation stops as the camera fixes on the glare of the sun. The film is subtitled Voyage de Guérison (journey of healing) after an ancient Celtic belief that if you surrendered yourself up to the forces of the sea, you would be delivered to a magical island where supernatural forces would heal you of all ill.