13 rooms in Materials and Objects
Sol LeWitt is a leading figure in conceptual art
Sol LeWitt’s work ranges from prints on paper to wall drawings and sculptures. The idea (concept) behind the work is regarded in conceptual art as more important than the finished object. He believed that materials should be secondary to ideas. Often the artworks were made, not by LeWitt himself, but by assistants following his instructions. By inviting others to fabricate his work, LeWitt challenged the traditional role of the artist in the making process.
The instructions for LeWitt’s work function like a composer’s score. As he described it: ‘It’s as though I were writing a piece of music and somebody else is going to play it.’ Different outcomes were sometimes drawn from LeWitt’s directions. He accepted these differences, seeing them as a part of the overall process. He created space within his instructions for improvisation: 'I try to make the plan specific enough that it comes out more or less as I want it, but general enough that they have the freedom to interpret.'
Ultimately the work remains LeWitt’s, as long as the instructions are not directly contradicted by the maker. ‘The idea’, as LeWitt explained, is the ‘machine that makes the art.’
Curated by Helen O’Malley
Tacita Dean, Kodak 2006
Kodak 2006 documents the making of 16mm film stock inside a factory about to go out of business. Tacita Dean both celebrates the beauty of analogue filmmaking and mourns its demise.
Today digital tools have almost completely replaced photochemical film equipment. Kodak was shot on 16mm film in one of the last places to make this type of film stock. It shows the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône, France. Dean made the film just before the plant permanently stopped production.
Photochemical film is produced in darkness. On the day of shooting, the factory was running a test, giving Dean a rare opportunity to capture it with the lights on. Long static shots show details of machinery and staff working or taking breaks. The hum of equipment can be heard in the background. A red ‘safelight’, used for working with light sensitive film, recurs throughout the film as well as in the entrance to the projection space.
Dean has worked mainly with analogue film since the early 1990s. She believes digital technologies cannot replace its unique qualities. She especially values the surprises the material brings. Digital technology, Dean says, ‘neither breathes nor wobbles, but tidies up our society.’ Her work often explores disused structures and materials that once stood as visions of the future. Here Dean reflects on film itself as a technology on the brink of extinction.
Since Dean made this film, Kodak have started producing small amounts of moving image film again. This is due in part to the artist’s campaign to save film.
Gallery label, January 2020
artworks in Sol LeWitt