January 29, 2013

Tacita DeanJG

Arcadia University Art Gallery
Tacita Dean, JG, 2013. Color and black & white anamorphic 35mm film with optical sound, 26:30 minutes. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London/Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris.

Arcadia University Art Gallery is pleased to announce the presentation of JG by Berlin-based British artist Tacita Dean. Commissioned by the gallery and funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, JG is a sequel in technique to FILM, Dean’s 2011 project for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The new 26 ½ minute work is a looped, 35mm anamorphic film shot on location in the saline landscapes of Utah and Southern California using Dean’s recently developed and patented system of aperture gate masking. 

The project is inspired by her correspondence with British author J. G. Ballard (1930 – 2009) regarding connections between his short story “The Voices of Time” (1960) and Robert Smithson’s iconic earthwork and film, Spiral Jetty (both 1970). An unprecedented departure from her previous 16mm films, JG attempts to respond to Ballard’s challenge, posed to her shortly before he died, that Dean should “treat the Spiral Jetty as a mystery her film would solve.”

JG advances the aperture gate masking invention that Dean developed for FILM. This labor-intensive process, analogous to a form of stenciling, allows her to use different shaped masks to expose and re-expose the negative within a single film frame. Requiring that the film be put through the camera multiple times, the technique gives each frame the capacity to traverse time and location in ways that parallel the effects of Ballard’s fiction and Smithson’s earthwork and film. The process also serves to restore the spontaneity and invention that distinguished early cinema in comparison to the relative ease and what Dean calls “the end of risk” afforded by digital postproduction. JG is a work that could only be made using 35mm film, but it is also about drawing and collage and, as such, strives to return film to the physical, artisanal medium it was at its origin.

Mindful of Smithson’s film of his own earthwork, as well the medium’s dependency on the spooling and looping of celluloid though camera and projector, JG proposes a matrix of visual and literary correspondences that pushes previously unimagined capacities of film. The result is a visually stunning, elliptical interpretation of a speculative conversation between Ballard, Smithson, and Dean that reaches across decades and disciplines. 

Organized by Gallery Director Richard Torchia, JG will commence with a lecture by Dean on February 7 in the Commons Great Room at 6:30 PM and coincides with other events and exhibitions in Philadelphia and New York. 

International House (3701 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, begins a Ballard-themed film series on Tuesday, February 5, at 7pm, with remarks by Dean. The featured films, Ballard’s favorites chosen with the assistance of Claire Walsh, the author’s longtime partner, include the Russian war epic Come and See (1985) on February 5, the sci-fi adventure Mad Max 2 (1981) on March 1, and the film noir Point Blank (1967) on March 27. 

Dean’s 2008 installation Merce Cunningham Performs STILLNESS… (six performances, six films) will be presented at Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop and Museum (from February 2 through March 17, 2013; In New York, the Marian Goodman Gallery will present Fatigues, Dean’s large-scale blackboard drawing created for Documenta 13, from February 1 to March 9, 2013 ( 

Additional events at Arcadia will continue through April 21, including a lecture on April 10 by V. Vale, the publisher of RE/Search editions, whose 1984 monograph on Ballard remains the most comprehensive introduction to his work.

JG is accompanied by Key Stroke, a collaborative artists’ book featuring photographs that Dean took on location with Ballard’s 35mm camera, given to her by Claire Walsh, and facsimiles of a manuscript by British novelist Will Self produced on Ballard’s typewriter, also given to him by Walsh. A second publication includes texts by Jeremy Millar, Walsh, Torchia and Dean. Both books are designed by Dean’s long-term collaborator, Martyn Ridgewell.

For more information about upcoming events, the exhibition, and directions to the gallery, please visit



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