Skip to main content

Tacita Dean – Woman With a Red Hat

“I’ve always been slightly afraid of actors,” Tacita Dean says, midway through talking about Woman with a Red Hat, her enticingly named exhibition that forms the Fruitmarket Gallery’s contribution to this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival. Given that Woman with a Red Hat, which opens hot on the heels of a trilogy of solo exhibitions running concurrently across London, is based entirely around theatrical performance, this sounds like an odd thing to say. Especially as its centre-piece, Event for a Stage (2015), is an hour-long film featuring a solo performance by Tony award-winning actor Stephen Dillane in a black box theatre space dressed as Oedipus.

“Working with Stephen was a huge learning curve for me,” says Dean, whose artistic career began with the YBA generation, and who was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1998. “I don’t think I work with actors in a functional way, and that’s all to do with my inability, willfully or otherwise, to work within linear narrative cinema. I tell stories, but I struggle with linear narrative, and I wonder why I can’t go there.”

Event for a Stage was commissioned for the Sydney Biennale and filmed over four nights in an auditorium where Dean hands Dillane pages of a script one by one from the front row. There are reminiscences about Dillane’s family, lines from Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, and story-telling, while the actor also announces the changing of film reels for the two cameras filming him.

Actors feature in three shorter films on show. In A Muse (2017), Ben Whishaw reaches out through space and time to poet and essayist Anne Carson. Providence (2017) sees David Warner transported to a field of hummingbirds. As a kind of grand finale, His Picture in Little (2017) brings together the three actors, who have all played Hamlet, a line from which gives the film its title. The oldest piece in the exhibition is Foley Artist (1996), a sound-work which in part features Tim Piggot-Smith performing lines from Henry IV Part Two.

“I used Ben and David in the tradition of art and not in the tradition of acting,” says Dean. “It’s a bit like asking them to sit for a portrait. Actors are uncomfortable if they’re not being directed, even in a small way.”

While in no way calculated, a sense of theatre has permeated throughout much of Dean’s work. It was there perhaps most explicitly in her film of Merce Cunningham and company dancing to John Cage’s composition, 4’33 (2008). It was there again in Play as Cast (2004/2005), which enlarged a monochrome production shot of a play onto the safety curtain of Vienna Opera House as part of an ongoing series of work by contemporary artists. Then there is Die Regimentstochter (2005), a group of thirty-six vintage theatre and opera programmes she found in a German fleamarket. There is drama here too.

“There’s something cut out of the front page of each of them, so you can see the next page coming through,” Dean says. “They look like found collages, until you realise that someone’s cut the swastika from each of them. You don’t know if that was an act of rebellion, or an act of obedience when the swastika became illegal, so there’s this ambivalence to them.”

Dean sat on them for a while, showed them at her 2006 show at Tate St Ives, and the work now belongs to the German government. This is why they won’t be seen at the Fruitmarket. Two other works will. The blackboard-based When first I raised The Tempest (2016) is a storyboard for an imaginary film. The Russian Ending (2001) reimagines a set of found postcards as stills from fictitious disaster movies.

“I’ve always used theatrical language,” says Dean, her words a series of unrehearsed fractures that eventually connect into mini monologues. “Even early on with my blackboard pieces, I used stage directions like ‘exeunt’. When I write about my work as well, I call them asides, so it must be there somewhere.”

Dean’s grand-father was Basil Dean, a pioneering film producer who co-founded Ealing Studios, and went on to make films with the likes of George Formby and Gracie Fields. Given that he died when Dean was eleven, there is no direct influence, but “maybe hearing about all that left its mark.”

Dean’s latest film, not being shown in Edinburgh, is called Antigone. She began working on it more than twenty years ago, visiting the Sundance Film Festival to learn how to write scripts from some of the greats. The result is more arthouse than multiplex.

“It’s about stage fright,” Dean says, “and came out of what happens when you lose your way.”

With the theatrical beginnings, middles and possible endings presented as a body of work in Woman with the Red Hat, might Dean ever go the whole hog and make (+italic)movies(-italic) rather than (+italic)films(-italic).

“No,” says Dean the reluctant auteur. “I’ve always resisted that, and I think I always will. The whole process of making Antigone after going to Sundance and all of that confirmed to me that I need the blindness of working as an artist rather than a film director. I have to get it all from underneath rather than left or right.

“With Antigone, for twenty years I was carrying around this idea of writing a script, but I came back from Sundance, and even with everything I’d learnt there, I couldn’t do it. I write, and I make films, so why can’t I do that?”

She answers herself.

“Probably because I don’t want to. I need to be blind. I need to not know where I’m going. If there’s one thing I understand about my work is that I don’t want to know the entry point. I need to be blind.” 

Tacita Dean – Woman with a Red Hat, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, July 7th-September 30th.

The List Edinburgh Festival Guide 2018, July 2018


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Clybourne Park

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy Four Stars
It’s a case of whoops, there goes the neighbourhood twice over in Rapture Theatre’s revival of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opens in 1959 in the same Chicago suburb where Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared that year, is set. Here, Robin Kingsland’s Russ and his wife Bev, played by Jackie Morrison, are preparing to move out of their now almost empty des-res following a family tragedy.
Unknown to them, the bargain basement price tag has enabled a black family to move in, with Jack Lord’s uptight Karl a self-appointed spokesperson for the entire ‘hood. Russ and Bev’s black maid Francine (Adelaide Obeng) and her husband Albert (Vinta Morgan), meanwhile, bear witness to a barrage of everyday racism. Fast forward half a century, and a white family are trying to buy the same house, albeit with a heap of proposed changes which the black couple representing the block’s now much more diverse community aren’t…

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1
1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77)
3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77)
4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77)
5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77)
6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77)
7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77)
8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78)
9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78)
10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79) 
11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79)
12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79) 
13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79)
14. JOLT See Saw (6/79)
15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79)
16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79)
17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79)
18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79)
19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79)
20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79)
21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79)
22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79)
23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79)
24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80)
25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980)

1. THE REZILLOS I Can’t Stand My Baby (Sensible FAB 18/77) If it wasn’t for T…

Michael Rother - Sterntaler at 40

"There's so much to do," says an uncharacteristically flustered Michael Rother. The normally unflappably beatific German guitarist, composer and former member of Neu! and Harmonia, who also had a stint in a nascent Kraftwerk, is packing for live dates in Russia and the UK, including this weekend's show at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow.
"It has always been my choice to take care of these things myself and not have a manager," he says. "Somehow for me the independent aspect of doing things is really important, but it has its disadvantages."
As well as playing selections from Neu! and Harmonia, the trio he formed with Dieter Moebius and Hans Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, Rother's Glasgow date will see him play a fortieth anniversary rendering of his second solo album, Sterntaler, in full. Rother will be accompanied by guitarist Franz Bargmann and drummer Hans Lampe, the latter of whose musical involvement with Rother dates back to Neu! days, …