Hirshhorn Plaza

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Press Preview: Wednesday, July 25, 10 a.m.-12 noon.
Artist and curator to be present.

Directions – Tacita Dean, an exhibition pairing two anamorphic film installations by this British artist (b. 1965), whose work is highly regarded in her homeland but not often shown in the United States, will open on Thursday, July 26, at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Ave. at Seventh St. S.W. The show continues through Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Dean, who was honored this past spring with a major survey show at London’s Tate Britain, will launch the exhibition at 7 p.m. on the opening date with a free, illustrated discussion of her work in the Hirshhorn’s Ring Auditorium. The program, titled “Meet the Artist: Tacita Dean,” takes place during the extended Thursday hours (open until 8 p.m.) of “Art Night on the Mall.”

The two film installations by Dean, whose work reflects a growing presence of cinema in contemporary art, will fill separate spaces in a darkened, reconfigured Directions Gallery. These wide-screen images (also called anamorphic, or Cinemascope images), made by 16mm loop projectors, extend horizontally for several feet. Action is downplayed in favor of depicting slow, lingering time, and atmospheric vistas prevail.

“Dean’s film imagery allows spectators to exhume a melancholic, psychological world from the everyday environment,” says the Hirshhorn’s chief curator, Kerry Brougher, who organized the exhibition. “Her objects and landscapes on film act as metaphors for dimly remembered tales.”

Disappearance at Sea (1996), the earlier of the two works, contrasts a rotating lighthouse beacon with the fading spectacle of a sunset over an ocean. “The security of knowing one’s position in relation to land begins to dissolve into the blackness of the sea at night,” says Brougher of the film’s increasingly tense mood, “and the rational gives way to the irrational.” The artist’s inspiration for this 14-minute work was the story of Donald Crowhurst, a British amateur sailor who set off unprepared on a round-the-world solo sailing race, faked his progress, suffered delusions, and allegedly ended his life by jumping overboard. Dean shot the film at the lighthouse of St. Abb’s Head, Scotland, to communicate the doomed man’s “final and distorted sense of things,” as she puts it.

Fernsehturm (Television Tower, 2001), the second work, is seen for the first time since its premiere screening at the Tate Britain show. The setting is a revolving restaurant atop the Communist-built TV tower at Alexanderplatz in Berlin, once the central square of East Berlin. There, from various angles, a stationary camera records the mundane activities and sounds of diners, waiters, and a keyboard musician at the end of the day. Panoramic windows reveal the cityscape moving slowly by while daylight fades into night. The hypnotic 44-minute sequence ends abruptly when interior lights are turned on.

“Fernsehturm is as much about the past as the future,” says Brougher. “Although from the inside the restaurant appears to be a hovering spaceship-invoking the hypnotic craft of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey-it is attached to the realities of present-day Berlin and invokes the failed utopian projects of both East and West.”

Trained as a painter and also active in drawing and photography, Dean has worked in film since the early 1990s. Her work has been shown internationally, including London, Barcelona, Rotterdam, and Philadelphia, where the Institute of Contemporary Art presented her first American solo show in 1998. She was also short-listed for London’s coveted Turner Prize that year.

“Dean’s concentrated vision,” says Brougher, “is informed by both the history of painting and that of cinema-by the sublime encounters with nature in the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich or John Constable, and by the tableaux vivants that undercut motion and slow time in the films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer and Michelangelo Antonioni.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a free, illustrated brochure with an essay by Brougher. It is supported in part by the Trellis Fund, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, the British Council, the Henry Moore Foundation, and contributions to the Hirshhorn’s Annual Circle.

In addition to the artist’s talk, free programs for the exhibition include:

“As the World Turns,” a “Young at Art” workshop for children on Saturday, Aug.18, 10 a.m.-12 noon. Preregistration is required; call 202-357-3235, ext. 116.

“Bird’s Eye View,” a drop-in “Improv Art” family workshop on Saturday, Sept. 22, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

“Parallel Perspectives: New Films Set in Berlin,” in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes, at 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, Sept. 27-28 and Oct. 4-5, featuring the documentary Berlin Babylon (Sept. 27), the tragicomedy Berlin Is in Germany (Sept. 28), and the thriller planet alex (Oct. 4, repeated Oct. 5).

For program details, check the museum’s Web site (https://hirshhorn.si.edu) or the current Events Calendar.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., with hours extended to 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Aug. 31. The nearest Metrorail stop is L’Enfant Plaza, Maryland Avenue exit. Admission to the museum is free.

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