Posts Tagged ‘Australia Centre for Contemporary Art


Review: Jenny Holzer at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th December 2009 – 28th February 2010



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Various dates
With poetry by Wislawa Szymborska



“I draw from everything – from the National Security Archives collection to old material from the FBI’s website to postings by the ACLU. I concentrate on the content. It tends to be very rough material about what’s happened to soldiers in the field, about the good and bad choices they’ve been forced to make, and what has happened to detainees and civilians. I also go to material that’s almost completely gone, either whited out or blacked out, because that represents the issue. You don’t have to spill words when the page is completely black.”

Jenny Holzer



This is a patchy but ultimately redemptive exhibition by Jenny Holzer at the Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne. The main exhibition space at ACCA is filled with one installation created specifically for the space titled For ACCA (2009) that in essence is the same as the installation for The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MOCA)(see photographs above).

The work is projected by a Cameleon Teleprojecteur into the large space and features poems by Wislawa Szymborska with titles such as “The End and the Beginning”, “The Joy of Writing”, “Children of Our Age” and “The Terrorist, He’s Watching” scrolling a la Star Wars opening credits from the bottom upwards into the darkened space. The words that flow into the mis en scene are distorted at the edges like a fish eye lens distorts reality. EVERYTHING IS IN CAPITAL LETTERS TO EMPHASISE THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORDS, JUST IN CASE WE MISSED THE POINT. It feels like you have been metaphorically hit over the head with the artist’s concern and frankly, I soon lost interest in the mobilisation of meaning:


“I don’t require changes
from the surf,
now diligent, now sluggish,
obeying not me.”

“The Bomb in the bar
will explode at thirteen twenty
Now it’s just thirteen sixteen
There’s still time
for some to go in,
and some to come out.”

“There’s one thing
I won’t agree to:
My own return.
The privilege of presence –
I give it up.”

“I survived you by enough,
and only by enough,
to contemplate from afar – “

“After Every War
Someone has to tidy up.
Things won’t pick
themselves up, after all.”


More interesting are the 4 bean bags placed on the floor that are covered in matt grey heat sensitive fabric. As you sit in the bags your indentation heats up the fabric. Upon standing the mark of your body, your body temperature, forms silver Yves Klein-like paintings of glowing phosphorescence. Looking back into the projector from your recumbent position you get an eerie view of the words coming towards you on the floor and going away on the ceiling, your body illuminated in words. What spoils the installation for me is the didactic nature of the protestations, their proselytising soon wearing thin on a body more attuned to the pithy, insightful phrases of Barbara Kruger.

The electronic sculpture Torso (see image below) “emphatically addresses the private body enmeshed and lost in information and government operations.” (catalogue text). Featuring 10 doubled LED projectors programmed with case files of American soldiers accused of war crimes in the Middle East, abuse questions of detainees, ‘For Official Use Only’ texts and personal messages of love the sculpture is at first seen from a distance, framed by two rectangular doorways of the previous galleries. The mainly blue background and pink lettered light emanating from the sculpture is beautiful and quite magical and as one enters the empty space of the gallery the light focuses the eyes on the moving words, their repetition, their flashing, their running at different speeds and colours, all with the same message  – words that seem to appear out of the wall and disappear back into it. The effect soon wears thin however; when you delve into the guts of the torso fascination begins to wane and you are left with repetition for repetition’s sake and with ‘pretty’ words that are just that: patterns of perniciousness displayed for our pleasure.

The reason that you must visit this exhibition is the last body of work. Working with declassified documents that relate to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Holzer’s Redaction paintings address the elemental force that is man’s (in)humanity to man (in the study of literature, redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined (redacted) and subjected to minor alteration to make them into a single work).1 Silkscreen printed as oil on canvas these paintings are some of the most poignant, moving, terrifying, enraging pieces of art that I have seen in a long time. I was moved to tears. They are tough works and they deserve to be.

Autopsy reports, a “Wish List” for alternative interrogation techniques (Wish List/Gloves Off 2007), a handwritten letter from an Iraq student detailing his experience of torture (By the Name of God 2006) and palm prints –  (some totally illegible as the censor eradicates human identity, erases with a double violence – to the person themselves, to the validation that they existed) – document a government’s malfeasance.

What a word malfeasance!
Etymology: mal- + obsolete feasance doing, execution ….

In these paintings the artist pulls back and lets the work speak for itself – and it is all the more powerful because of this. Using the physical process of the hand in the making of these images implicates every one of us in the complicities of the faceless bureaucrats and military personnel that hide behind blacked out names. The most moving of the hand prints are the partial prints taken after death where some ‘body’ has pressed down the deceased detainees hand to make an impression, mapping an identity already deleted (Faint Hand 2007 – unfortunately I don’t have any images of these paintings to show you). One is even presented as it was taken, upside down (Right Hand Down 2007). These are indescribable images, they tear you up inside.

I left the exhibition feeling shell-shocked after experiencing intimacy with an evil that leaves few traces. In the consciences of the perpetrators? In the hearts of the living! Oh, how I wish to see the day when the human race will truly evolve beyond. We live in hope and the work of Jenny Holzer reminds us to be vigilant, to speak out, to have courage in the face of the unconscionable.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Many thankx to the Australia Centre for Contemporary Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“Date of birth; 1947
Date/time of Death: 26 Nov 2003
Circumstances of Death: This Iraq  _____  died in U.S. custody”


“We are American soldiers, heirs to a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there.”


Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950) 'Torso' 2007


Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
LED projectors



Holzer became well-known in the 1980s for her text-based works and public art. Her first series, Truisms (1977-79), contains concise, aphoristic statements that reveal and question truths, beliefs, and ideologies. While Truisms first appeared on posters placed in the urban environment, Holzer’s texts later took a number of forms including light projections on high-profile public buildings, LED (light emitting diode) signs, stickers placed on surfaces such as parking metres and telephone booths, and public furniture such as marble and granite benches. While Holzer still at times relies on the thirteen texts she wrote from 1977-2001, her recent practice has turned to incorporating the writings of others, including works by internationally celebrated poets and declassified government documents. Like her own texts, the borrowed writings and documents address personal and public calamities in a range of voices and tones that approximates the complexity of daily life.

Though Holzer has used words and ideas in public spaces for the past thirty years, she has also created large-scale projects for prominent institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), and the Centre Pompidou (Paris).

For ACCA’s main exhibition hall, Holzer will project poetry in the form of light onto the floors, ceilings, and walls, making the language something felt as well as read. In addition, she will display works from a series that began in 2005 where she translates declassified government documents into paintings. The documents are left exactly as they were found when rendered through silkscreen onto oil-painted grounds. The marks of a censor are seen in the text blocked out by a black scribble or box. These works come, as Holzer has said, from her “frantic worrying about the war and attendant changes in American society.” The projections and paintings will be supplemented by an LED installation titled Torso. In this work, Holzer stacks ten semi-circular signs that display in red, blue, white, and purple light the statements, investigation reports, and emails from case files of soldiers accused of various crimes in the Middle East. Providing these voices, part damning, contradictory, sympathetic, anecdotal, and evidentiary, Holzer layers accounts of abuse and blame.

“Jenny Holzer’s words ask us to consider our thoughts and actions in the world. This essentially humanist and philosophical project encourages us to seek self enlightenment through examining our prejudices, false beliefs, fall back positions, and habits, to reach a new level of tolerance, understanding and self awareness”

Juliana Engberg, ACCA’s Artistic Director

Text from the ACCA website [Online] Cited 01/06/2010 no longer available online



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Left Hand (Palm Rolled)
Oil on linen
80 x 62 in. (203.2 x 157.5 cm)
Text: U.S. government document



“What truly adds substance to the style are the Redaction Paintings. These blown-up pieces of censored materials, silk-screened on to stretched canvas, afford an unnerving glimpse at how we fight wars. Authored by countless bureaucratic functionaries, they feel both predictable and eye-opening.

All of the embedded journalists in the world couldn’t produce as clear a picture as the government did in documenting its own malfeasance. Many of these documents feature the blurred type of countless reproductions, a sign that time is burying these paperwork tragedies until they become illegible and unactionable.

Holzer didn’t have to doctor these documents for heightened effect; the black bars that enshroud the names of victims and their tormentors speak for themselves. One autopsy report describes the fatal suffocation of a prisoner of war forced to maintain a stress position. In some cases nearly whole documents are ominously blacked out, like a national Rorschach test.”2



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Oil on linen



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Right Hand (Palm Rolled)
Oil on linen
80 x 62 in. (203.2 x 157.5 cm)
Text: U.S. government document



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Wish List/Gloves Off
Oil on linen



“WISH LIST” document:

A captain in the US Army human intelligence division requested a “wish list” from subordinate interrogation teams for, “innovative interrogation techniques that will prove more successful than current methods.” One person interpreted this request to mean, “the captain wanted suggestions legal, illegal and somewhere in between.” The WISH LIST document is a summary of alternative interrogation techniques that the 4th Infantry Division, ICE, devised, including phone book strikes, low voltage electrocution and muscle fatigue inducement.

The document can be found on the American Civil Liberties Union website. The “WISH LIST” is on p. 59.”3



  1. Definition of redaction on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 6 February 2010
  2. Arizona, Daniel. “Jenny Holzer and the Influence of Anxiety,” on More Intelligent website [Online] Cited January 2010 no longer available online
  3. Anon. “Jenny Holzer Projections.” on the MASS MOCA website [Online] Cited 17 January 2010 no longer available online



Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
111 Sturt Street
Victoria 3006

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends and Public Holidays 11am – 5pm
Closed Monday
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art website


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Review: ‘Tacita Dean’ at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th June – 2nd August 2009


Photographs from the exhibition are in the chronological order that they appear.


Tacita Dean. 'Grobsteingrab (floating)' 2009


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Grobsteingrab (floating)



“The subjects are connected to the medium I use. It’s all about light and time and phenomena to some extent, like a rainbow or a gust of wind or even an eclipse or a green ray, things like that. And this is the language of light. It’s not the language of binary pixels.”

Tacita Dean1


“The value of her [Dean’s] work, writes Winterson, is one of the virtues of art itself: it is an intervention into the rush of everyday life, holding up time and space for contemplation.”

Jeanette Winterson2



This is a dense, ‘thick’ exhibition by Tacita Dean at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne that rewards repeat viewing. The theatricality of each work and the theatricality of the journey through ACCA’s dimmed galleries (an excellent installation of the work!) makes for an engrossing exhibition as Dean explores the minutiae of memory and the significance of insignificant events: a contemplation on the space, time and materiality of the everyday.

The exhibition starts with 3 very large floating rocks (Grobsteingrab (floating), Hunengrab (floating) and Riesenbelt (floating) all 2009) printed on multiple pieces of photographic paper, the surrounds of the rocks painted out with matt black blackboard paint (see image at top of this posting). The rocks look like mountain massif and are printed at different levels to each other; they move up and down, earthed in the sense that the viewer feels their heavy weight but also buoyant in their surface shininess, seeming to float into the void. The textuality of the rocks is incredible, the suspension of the rocks fragmented by the fact that they are printed on multiple pieces of photographic paper, the edges of the paper curling up to dislocate the unity of form.

Opposite is the large multi-panelled T + I (Tristan + Isolde), a tour de force of Romantic landscape meets mythological journey (see image second from top). Sunshine searing through cloud lights the 25 Turner-esque black and white gravure panels that feature an inlet, fjord and ravine. Semi-legible words dot the landscape, reflecting on the legendary story: ‘undergrowth’, ‘dispute’, ‘brightening up’, ‘BLIND FOLLY’ and ‘the union involved in a manifestation(?)’ for example. Each panel is beautifully rendered and a joy to behold – my friend and I stood transfixed, examining each panel in minute detail, trying to work out the significance and relation between the writing and image. As with most of the work in the exhibition the piece engages the viewer in a dialogue between reality, story and memory, between light, space, time and phenomena.

After the small rear projected film Totality (2000) that shows the extraordinary event of a total eclipse of the sun by the moon for a period of two minutes and six seconds the viewer takes a short darkened passage to experience the major installation in the exhibition Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films) 2007 (see images below).

The first thing you see is one image projected onto a small suspended screen, the rest of the installation blocked by a short gallery wall to the right. The dancer Merce Cunningham sits in studious calm and observes us. This in itself is magical but as we round the corner other screens of different sizes and heights come into view, all portraying Cunningham’s dance studio and him sitting in it from different angles, heights and distances (including close-ups of Cunningham himself). In the six screen projection the performances of Cunningham are sometimes in synch, sometimes not. The director Trevor Carlson, holding a stop watch, times the 3 movements of Cage’s musical piece 4’33” and directs Cunningham to change position at the end of every movement; his hands move, he crosses his legs and the performance continues.

The work is projected into the sculptural space using old 16mm film projectors and their sound mixes with the studied silence of the Cage work and white noise. The mirrors in the studio make spaces of infinite recess, showing us the director with the stop watch, the windows, the floor, the markings of the dancers hands on the mirrors surface adding another echo of past presences. As a viewer their seems to be an ‘openness’ around as you are pulled into a spatial and sound vortex, a phenomena that transcends normal spatio-temporal dimensionality. As people pass through the installation their shadows fall on the screens and become part of the work adding to the multi-layered feeling of the work. This is sensational stuff – you feel that you transcend reality itself as you observe and become immersed within this amazing work – almost as though space and time had split apart at the seams and you are left hanging, suspended in mid-air.

The next two films are my favourite pieces in the exhibition. Darmstädter Werkblock (2007) shows us the significance of insignificant markings – edges and intersections, textures, blends and bleeds, the minutiae of existence in the markings on the fabric of an internal wall (see photograph below). Here is light, wood panelling, texture and again the sound of the whirring of the film projector. Usually I am not a fan of this kind of work having seen enough ‘Dead Pan’ photography and photography of empty yet supposedly important spaces in my life, but here Dean’s film makes the experience come alive and actually mean something. Her work transcends the subject matter – and matter is at the point where these interstitial spaces have been marked by the abstract signs of human existence that constantly surround us.

In Michael Hamburger (2007) Dean reaches the empito-me of these personal narratives that inhabit everyday life. Film of an orchard with wind rustling through the trees, clouds drifting across the sky, rotting apples on the branches, fallen fruit on the ground and a clearing with a man looking up at the trees is accompanied by the industrial sounds of clicks and pops like that of an old radio (see photograph above). The swirling sound of the wind surrounds you in the darkened gallery space much as the panoramic screen of the projection seems to enfold you. The scene swaps to an interior of a house and shows the man, has face mainly in shadow, the film focusing on the different type of apples in front of him or on the aged wrinkles of his hands holding the apples. He talks intelligently and knowingly about the different types of apples and their rarity and qualities. This is Michael Hamburger (now dead which adds poignancy to the film) – poet, critic, memoirist and academic notable for his translations of the work of W. G. Sebald, one of Tacita Dean’s main influences (and also an author that I love dearly).

One can see echoes of Sebald’s work in that of Tacita Dean – the personal narratives accompanied by mythical and historical stories and pictures. The tactility of Hamburger’s voice and hands, his caressing of the apples with the summary justice of the tossing away of rotten apples to stop them ruining the rest of the crop is arresting and holds you transfixed. Old varieties and old hands mixed with the old technology of film make for a nostalgic combination. As John Matthews of ArtKritique has so insightfully observed in his review of this work Dean implicitly understands how objects can be elegies for fleeting lives.

After this work one should have a break – go to the front of the gallery and have a coffee and relax because this is an exhausting show!

The rest of the exhibition tends to tail off slightly, with less engaging but still interesting works.

In Die Regimentstochter (2005) (the name of a Donizetti opera) Dean uses a pile of 36 found and mutilated old opera and theatre programs from the 1930s and 1940s such as Staats Theatre, Berlin, Der Tanz and Deutsche Openhaus. These programs have had portions of their front covers roughly but clinically cut to reveal the inner pages beneath (see image below) and Dean uses them to comment on the politicisation of culture in Berlin’s mid-20th century history. The top of a powdered wigged head or the face of Beethoven has been revealed when the title of the work has been neatly removed along with something else:

“Each programme gives a tantalising glimpse of a title or a face through a small window cut into the embossed cover; we recognise Beethoven, Rossini, the face of a singer perhaps. When and by whom this incision in the cover was made, very neatly one might add, even more why these disfigured programmes were kept remains a mystery. A swift search in an archive would easily show what has been removed; most likely an embossed swastika, for these performances all happened during the Third Reich. Why they were removed is left to our imaginations; perhaps an avid theatre-goer livid at the co-option of culture by the regime, perhaps someone afraid they might be misinterpreted as fascist memorabilia, while wishing to retain the memories these performances triggered.”3

High up on a wall opposite these programs is the film Palast (2004) in which Dean reflects Berlin’s divided history in the jaded façade of the once iconic Palast, the government building of the former German Democratic Republic.4 Shards of light hit glass and reflections are fractured in their gridded panes (see images below). A bird is seen flying, viewed through the window and we see the stains on that window but in this film things feel a bit forced. Unlike the earlier Darmstädter Werkblock there is little magic here.

Again the minutiae of existence is examined in the final two films Noir et Blanc (2006), made on the last 5 rolls of Dean’s black and white double-sided 16mm film stock and Kodak (2006), both made at the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône before it closed it’s film production facilities (see images below). With the demise of the medium that she feels closest to Dean sought permission to film at the factory itself and both films examine that medium by turning it on itself.

“Dean became acutely aware of the threat to her chosen medium when she was unable to obtain standard 16mm black-and-white film for her camera. Upon discovering that the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, was closing its film production facility, Dean obtained permission to document the manufacture of film at the factory, where cameras have never before been invited. The resulting rear-screen projection ‘Noir et Blanc’, filmed on the final five rolls Dean acquired, turns the medium on itself. The 44-minute-long work ‘Kodak’ constitutes a contemplative elegy for the approaching demise of a medium specific to Dean’s own practice. Kodak’s narrative follows the making of celluloid as it runs through several miles of machinery and explores the abandoned corners of the factory. On the day of filming, the factory also ran a test through the system with brown paper, providing a rare opportunity to see the facilities fully illuminated, without the darkness needed to prevent exposure, and underscoring the luster of the celluloid as the dull brown strips contrast with the luminous, transparent polyester.”5

As writer Tony Lloyd has commented, “The film “Kodak” documenting the manufacturing of film was as solemn and reverent as a Catholic mass and equally as dull and inexplicable.”6 I wouldn’t go that far but by the end of the exhibition the nostalgia for old technologies, the brown paper programs and the film strip as relic were starting to wear a bit thin, like the sprockets of an old film camera failing to take up the film.

At her best Tacita Dean is a fantastic artist whose work examines the measure of things, the vibrations of spirit in the FLUX of experience. Her work has a trance-like quality that is heavy with nostalgia and memory and reflects the machine-ations of contemporary life. In her languorous (thankyou Tony Lloyd for that word, so appropriate I had to use it!) and dense work Dean teases out the significance of insignificant actions/events and imparts meaning and life to them. This is no small achievement.

As an exhibition this is an intense and moving experience. Go, take your time and enjoy!

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

Many thankx to ACCA for allowing me to publish the photographs and art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image


  • Dean, Tacita quoted in Bunbury, Stephen.“Still Lives,” in The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing, A2 section, Saturday June 6th, 2009, p. 20
  • Winterson, Jeanette, quoted in Bunbury, Stephen.“Still Lives,” in The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing, A2 section, Saturday June 6th, 2009, p. 20
  • Anonymous. Product synopsis from Tacita Dean Die Regimentstochter [Paperback] on the Amazon website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009
  • Anonymous. Description of Tacita Dean: ‘Palast’ on the Tate St. Ives website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009 no longer available online
  • Anonymous. “The Hugo Boss Prize: Tacita Dean”, on the Guggenheim Museum website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009 no longer available online
  • Lloyd, Tony. “Opnion: Tacita Dean at ACCA,” on [Online] Cited 19/07/2009 no longer available online



Tacita Deam. 'T & I (Tristan & Isolde)' 2006


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
T & I (Tristan & Isolde)
Photogravure on twenty-five sheets
Sheet (each): 26 3/4 x 33 7/8″ (68 x 86 cm)
Installation: 134 x 170″ (340.4 x 431.8 cm)
Niels Borch Jensen Gallery and Edition, Berlin and Copenhagen



Through drawings and films, Dean makes work that is frequently characterised by a poetic sensibility and fragmented narratives exploring past and present, fact and fiction. In this monumental printed work, she addresses themes of collective memory and lost history by combining the romantic legend of ill-fated medieval lovers Tristan and Isolde (whose initials give this piece its title) with the real-life tragedy of British sailor Donald Crowhurst. Dean often uses the sea and other maritime themes in her work, including the tale of Crowhurst, which has appeared in several of her projects.

In 1968 Crowhurst sailed from England for a solo, round-the-world yacht race and never returned. In T & I Dean connects the tale of this lost sailor to the story of Tristan and Isolde – whose tragic love story also hinges on sea voyages – through her majestic depiction of a barren, rocky coastline looking seaward. This work, based on a found postcard, includes the white, cryptic notes that Dean often scribbles on her prints and drawings. Here the musings include “start” and “stage 4,” clear theatrical directions, as well as fragments of a poem by “WSG” about an artist killed in an accident. The twenty-five-sheet composition suggests a cinematic narrative sequence, while reading it as a unified image has a breathtaking, visionary impact. The rich velvety texture of the photogravure medium contributes a nineteenth-century patina that is ideally suited to the intensity and foreboding melancholy of the subject.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 269


Tacita Dean. 'Banewl' 1999


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
16mm colour film


old 16mm projector


16mm film projector used by Tacita Dean to project Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’


Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films) (stills)


Tacita Dean. 'Darmstädter Werkblock' 2007 (still)


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Darmstädter Werkblock (stills)
16mm colour film, optical sound
18 minutes, continuous loop



Take one of her best pieces, Darmstädter Werkblock 2007, which looks for most of its long eighteen minutes like an exploration of an empty room, which it is. The camera pans the space, exploring the frayed fringes of its empty, textile-clad, burnt brown walls. It settles on holes, tears, seams and faded spots marking where placards used to hang. We are formally intrigued, but also curious why we should care so much about this particular empty room in what we can vaguely sense is a museum. Perhaps we are even a little bored. Only later – not in the film itself, but in the accompanying materials – are we told that these rooms usually house the “Block Beuys”, a section of the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt arranged by Beuys himself over the decade and a half between its opening and the artist’s death. The Block is mired in controversy now that the walls, which are actually left over from when the rooms showed medieval artefacts, but which evoke and mirror Beuys’s own work, are slated for renovation.

Text from Philip Tinari. “Meditations on time,” in Tate Etc. issue 23: Autumn 2011 on the Tate website 1 September 2011 [Online] Cited 18/03/2019


Stills taken from the 16mm film Darmstädter Werkblock (2007) filmed in the seven rooms that make up Block Beuys, Joseph Beuys’s installation in Darmstadt’s Hessisches Landesmuseum. In September 2007, the museum announced that they intended to renovate the rooms, and to remove the brown jute wall coverings and gray carpet that had become such a feature of the installation. The decision caused much upset in Germany and beyond. Unable to document the rooms for copyright reasons, Dean requested that instead she might document the walls and carpet and the details of the space that surround Beuys’s work without making any visual reference to the work itself. The resulting film concentrated on the patches and the stains and the labor of those who have been maintaining the space over the last four decades – the parallel entropy of the museum space with the ageing of the work itself.

Text from Google Books


Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Michael Hamburger (stills)
16mm colour anamorphic, optical sound
28 minutes



Continuing her recent collection of film portraits, Tacita Dean’s Michael Hamburger is a moving portrayal of the poet and translator, a resident of Middleton in Suffolk and great friend of W.G. Sebald. It represented Dean’s first commission in Britain since 1999.

For its 28 minutes, the film quietly observes the poet in his study and among the apple trees in his garden. Sunlight dissolves the frames of the windows, the most insubstantial of thresholds between this home, only one-room-deep, and what lies outdoors; a rainbow marks its watery geometry in the sky; and the apples age upon the ground, shrunken, and yet somehow becoming more intensely themselves.

Although Hamburger is said to have despaired of reviews of his poetry which declared that he is ‘better known as a translator’, we might detect a similar deprecation of his self, by himself, in the film which shares his name. Unwilling, perhaps unable, to talk of his past and his migrations, most especially fleeing Nazism in 1933, he talks poignantly, instead, of his apple trees, of where they have come from, and of their careful cross-breeding. Purity is dismissed, and one senses with an awkward pathos that the poet is translating himself.

Text from the FVU website [Online] Cited 18/03/2019


Tacita Dean’s portrait of the poet and translator Michael Hamburger was filmed, at his home in rural Suffolk, in the last year of his life. Set against muted autumn colours, and with Hamburger performing an evocative, anecdotal inventory of the harvest from his apple orchard, the piece is a bittersweet reminder of time’s passing that deftly captures, and quietly honours, an exemplary 20th century literary figure.


Tacita Dean. 'Die Regimentstochter' 2005


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Die Regimentstochter (The Daughter of the Regiment)



Die Regimentstochter is the latest in a series of projects made from material turned up in flea markets, in this case, a series of 36 antique opera programs from the 30s and 40s found in the flea markets of Berlin. Like the found photographs in Dean’s 2001 FLOH, these souvenirs remain unexplained by text. They retain the silence of the lost object, and they share a riddle: each program gives a tantalising glimpse of a title or a face through a small window cut into the embossed cover. Readers will recognise Beethoven, Rossini, or perhaps a singer. A swift search in an archive would easily confirm what has been removed, but it seems likely that the missing piece is a swastika. These performances all happened during the Third Reich. When and by whom the incision was made, and why these programs were both worth disfiguring and worth keeping, remains a mystery.

Text from the Amazon website


“Things no longer visible thus enhance our view of the past, and gaps, paradoxically, become memorials that engage the beholder’s imagination more actively than a didactic demonstration could. Merely by showing what remains, Tacita Dean not only calls up in our mind’s eye a specific historical situation and its abysses, but also erects an anti-monument to the forms customarily taken by the culture of memory.”

Andreas Kaernbach


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965) 'Die Regimentstochter' 2005


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Die Regimentstochter (The Daughter of the Regiment)



They look lined up like a modern art object. The 36 opera program books are not considered as works of art. Nevertheless, the British and Berlin-based artist Tacita Dean turned them into a work of art.

“An incidental finding inspired Tacita Dean to her artwork,” tells the House of History. “At a Berlin flea market she discovered in the year 2000 36 opera program booklets from the years 1934 to 1942. Conspicuous were the title pages: from each of the booklets was a part cut out, including from the program of the eponymous opera “The Regimental Daughter” by Gaetano Donizetti (world premiere 1840). “Said part of the title pages of those notebooks was reserved for the swastika symbol. This was cut off by the previous owners. Why, that can only be speculated, continues the house of history. “Was it shame, the fear of being punishable or even a “private” act of resistance before the end of National Socialism? The program books in any case seem to have been of great cultural value to the former owner. ”

“Whatever the motives that made the owner or the owner of the program booklets of the Berlin opera from 1934 to 1942 come to shears in order to remove the Nazi swastikas from the cover pages of the booklets: The voices speak of the desire to conclude with a time that one does not want to be reminded of – a basic motive of German post-war history that stood in the way of an honest confrontation with the era of National Socialism for a long time, “said the Minister of Culture.

With her work, Tacita asks Dean questions about dealing with the Nazi past. Which motive behind it and who had heard the booklets remains open until today. Tacita Dean has created a work of art from these finds, which poses subtle questions about the examination of the Nazi past – but in a way that goes beyond purely historical reflection and awakens additional associations. What does that object, created by the artist from Canterbury, say about the relationship between art and politics? “Can the opera narratives be separated from the political environment in which they were performed and played?” asks the President of the Foundation for the History of the Federal Republic of Germany, Prof. Dr Hans Walter Hütter.

Monika Grütters continues: “The fact that the dark part of our identity does not disappear through concealment and suppression, and that it becomes visible again even where it was attempted to be eradicated, impressively shows Tacita Dean’s work Regimentstochter. That is why I very much welcome the fact that this unique work of art has a place in the collection which, in view of its significance in contemporary history, necessarily belongs to it – a place in the House of History which, unlike any other museum in Germany, presents German history from 1945 in all its facets illustrated and also devoted to the effects of National Socialism on the political and cultural life in post-war Germany.”

Text by Von Daniel Thalheim, “NS-Vergangenheit als Kunst – 36 Programmhefte aus der Nazi-Zeit im Haus der Geschichte,” on the ARTEFAKTE: Das Journal für Baukultur und Kunst website 2nd September 2015 [Online] Cited 17/03/2019 translated from the German by Google Translate.


Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Three stills from the film Palast



“A major survey of work by the internationally acclaimed British artist Tacita Dean will open at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) on June 6th, 2009.

In a great coup for Melbourne, fourteen recent projects by this celebrated contemporary artist will come together in what is the largest survey of Dean’s work to ever be shown outside of Europe.

Tacita Dean is one of Britain’s most accomplished and celebrated contemporary artists. She won the New York Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss award in 2007, was a Turner Prize nominee in 1998, and has had numerous solo exhibitions in Europe – at the Schaulager in Basel, DIA Beacon in New York, the de Pont Museum in the Netherlands, the Tate Britain, UK, the Musee d’art Moderne in Paris, France and the Villa Oppenheim in Berlin, to mention just a few.

Dean was also recently given the highly prestigious title of Royal Academician, awarded sparingly to alumni’s of the revered London art school who have achieved greatness in their work.

Tacita Dean was born in Canterbury in 1965, and moved to Berlin in 2000 after being awarded a DAAD residency. Early works focused on the sea – most famously she explored the tragic maritime misadventures of amateur English sailor Donald Crowhurst. Since moving to Berlin she has devoted her attention to the architecture and cultural history of Germany, a recurring theme also being the salvaging, saving and collecting of things lost. Many of her works rest on the icons of modernism, heroic failures and forgotten utopian ideals.

Dean is best known for her work with 16mm film, although she also works with photography, print and drawing. The qualities of filmmaking itself play a central role in her works – which hauntingly capture the passing of time, space and the mysteries of the natural world.

Her work occupies a place between fact and fiction. As British author Jeanette Winterson says, “Her genius, with her slow, steady, held frames, is to allow the viewer to dream; to enter without hurry, without expectation, and to accept, as we do in a dream, a different experience of time, and a different relationship to everyday objects.”

Included in this exhibition is Dean’s revered film installation, Merce Cunningham Performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007, which was recently presented at the DIA Beacon in New York, and the 2007 work Michael Hamburger. Two new wall-based works especially created for this exclusive ACCA exhibition will also feature.

Dean is also known for creating ‘asides’ – totally absorbing texts on the subjects explored in her work. She will contribute texts on all the projects included in the exhibition for a catalogue which will be published to coincide with this unique ACCA survey.

The exhibition has been curated by ACCA’s Artistic Director, Juliana Engberg and follows an early 2002 exhibition of Dean’s work curated by Engberg for the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

“Tacita’s works continue to enthral and inspire me. Not only has she rescued relics from history and restored them with a visual dignity and affection in her wonderful film projects, but increasingly she rescues the traditional art forms of drawing, print making, painting, photography and film from a digital abyss,” says Juliana Engberg. “Her works have a truth and quiddity about them, but also a playful artifice and technical tactic to bring out the tactile and material in all she deals with. Tacita is a sublime story-teller, a narrator of odysseys and attempts. She is a true artist sojourner.

In this selection of works made since 2004 we grasp the breadth of her practice and her pursuit of the time-honoured landscape, portrait and abstract genres,” she says.”

Text from the press release from the ACCA website [Online] Cited 17/07/2009 no longer available online


Tacita Dean. 'Noir et Blanc [Still]' 2006


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Noir et Blanc [Still]
16mm black-and-white Kodak film


Tacita Dean. 'Kodak' 2006


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Kodak (still)
16mm colour and b/w film optical sound
44 minutes loop system


Tacita Dean. 'Kodak' 2006


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Kodak (still)
16mm colour and b/w film optical sound
44 minutes loop system



As Dean said in a Guardian article back in February: “Digital is not better than analogue, but different. What we are asking for is coexistence: that analogue film might be allowed to remain an option for those who want it, and for the ascendency of one not to have to mean the extinguishing of the other.”

In the same text, she wrote of the difference between film and digital as “not only emulsion versus pixels, or light versus electronics, but something deeper – something to do with poetry.” This poetry is exactly what she explored in one of her landmark films, Kodak (2006), a 45-minute examination of the production process of celluloid itself at a French factory fated for early closure because of a lack of demand. A film about the making of film, it hinged on the sort of super-aestheticised conceit that has become her staple. This is a tactic which allows her to turn even time itself into a structural device, as she did in 2008 with a film called Amadeus, which depicts a 50-minute crossing of the English Channel in a small fishing boat of the same name.

Text from Philip Tinari. “Meditations on time,” in Tate Etc. issue 23: Autumn 2011 on the Tate website 1 September 2011 [Online] Cited 18/03/2019


Tacita Dean. 'Kodak' 2006


Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Kodak (still)
16mm colour and b/w film optical sound
44 minutes loop system



Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
111 Sturt Street, Southbank
Victoria 3006, Australia
Phone: 03 9697 9999

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends & Public Holidays 11am – 5pm
Monday by appointment
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

ACCA website

Tacita Dean website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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