At the Commodity Exchange, the fleeting visions of Tacita Dean


“Sakura Study (Taki I)” (2022), by Tacita Dean.

The rotunda of the Bourse de commerce, as it was redesigned by Tadao Ando, ​​is a splendid and formidable space for the artists to whom it is entrusted. Since the opening of the institution, in 2021, we have seen very few successes there, as it is difficult to measure yourself against the dimensions and height of the place, and the concrete circle drawn by the architect.

Invited as part of the “Before the Storm” program, British artist Tacita Dean is the first to make use of it convincingly with the work Geography Biographya silent film, in black and white and in color simultaneously, shown in an environment designed for him.

From Ando’s circle, Dean makes a closed and dark space, a round movie theater. At its center, a technical device, caught in a structure that is itself circular, is made up of two projectors and reels between which the films slide. This structure turns slowly on itself, so that the two images, each 4 meters high, slide laterally, together, on the wall. We must accompany them in their rotation.

Still and Moving Images

This device recalls natural references: cycle of hours or seasons, gravitation of planets… Nature and the seasons are also in many images that Tacita Dean weaves here. Photographs and short filmed sequences of stalactites of ice, snow-covered or flooded streets, deserts, sea waves beating the rocks constantly respond to each other.

But Tacita Dean is far from sticking to showing them as they are. She works on the substance using a technique that she has perfected and which combines still and moving images. The projection window of the immobile image – a botanical or archaeological plate, the view of a rock or a cloud, taken from his collection of old postcards – is partially blocked and, in the squares or circles thus cut out, the mobile images appear.

These are, for the most part, bits of film shot by the artist since his debut: 8 millimeters, super-8 or 16 millimeters, refilmed in 35 millimeters. These fragments of a few seconds are thus inserted into the fixed image like painted panels or sculptures were once inserted into altarpieces, and this comparison comes all the more to mind since Tacita Dean is composing a diptych.

Depending on the moment, the relationships between the “backgrounds” and the sequences are of the order of echo, contradiction or enigma. The gaze sometimes recognizes a place, an activity or an identifiable face, because Tacita Dean incorporates appearances by artist friends, including Julie Mehretu and David Hockney. They are filmed very simply, like the children, the cat or the swimming pool, which we also see appearing and disappearing.

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