FILM is an 11-minute silent 35 mm film projected onto a gigantic white monolith standing 13 metres tall at the end of a darkened Turbine Hall. It is the first work in The Unilever Series devoted to the moving image, and celebrates the masterful techniques of analogue filmmaking as opposed to digital. The work evokes the monumental mysterious black monolith from the classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film feels like a surreal visual poem, including images from the natural world among others, with the epic wall of the Turbine Hall showing through, in a montage of black and white, colour, and hand-tinted film.
Tacita Dean is a British artist now based in Berlin, best known for her use of film. Dean’s films act as portraits or depictions rather than conventional cinematic storytelling, capturing fleeting natural light or subtle shifts in movement. Her static camera positions and long takes allow events to unfold unhurriedly. Other works have attempted to reconstruct events from memory, such as an infamous thwarted attempt to circumnavigate the world.
Dean’s interest in the cinematic also extends to her work in other media. The Russian Ending 2001 borrows its title from the early Danish cinema tradition of making two alternate endings for a film: one happy for the American market and one tragic for the Russian market. In this work, Dean annotated postcards of catastrophes with director’s notes.
Many of Dean’s works show the ways in which architecture can be transformed by the camera’s lens. Craneway Event 2009 follows the choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) and his dance company rehearsing in a former Ford assembly plant, built of glass and steel and overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Dean’s film allows the ever-changing light of this environment to fall in rhythm with the dancers’ movements.