…film @ Tacita Dean’s ‘Film’ at Tate Modern and Zarina Bhimji ‘Yellow Patch’ at Whitechapel Gallery

These two exhibitions have much in common. Their most important similarity is that both artists use architecture as a protagonist in their films while  the absence of human presence is also rather obvious in both. However the way in which they reach the viewer is fundamentally different.

Tacita Dean’s ‘Film’ combines shots of Tate Modern’s interior spaces  with images of symbolic nature. The only actual human appearance, is the artist’s eye that looks at the viewer through a circular hole towards the end of the film. Her use of traditional means of film-manipulation like masking and hand-colouring of the frames, create a rather spectacular visual effect in playback. In some shots there is also a reference to Mondrian’s paintings of primary coloured rectangles. In the short documentary screened on the 5th floor the artist speaks among other things, about the meaning of some of the symbolic images she chose to include in her work. For example, the shot of the mountain in clouds inside the turbine hall, refers to Mount Analogue from the novel of para-surrealist writer René Daumal.

3 stills from Tacita Dean’s ‘Film’ at Tate Modern

Additionally, the choice of a portrait format instead of landscape also refers to the human figure. Architecture is one of the main starting points for this piece however Dean’s agenda to promote analogue film instead of digital technology seems equally important to the visual context. (see more here)

Zarina Bhimji’s ‘Yellow Patch’ on the other hand uses architecture and the absence of human presence so that everything that is humane about buildings comes forth powerfully. The movement of the camera represents the artist behind it. We are undoubtedly following her footsteps and we are looking through her eyes. This is not a generic way of observing, it is a very personal one which reveals much about the creator. Abandonment and decay of buildings, interior spaces and furniture speak of mortality in a poetic way.

2 stills from Zarina Bhimji’s ‘Yellow Patch’ at the Whitechapel Gallery

The film itself becomes a memento mori, a piece of art that serves as a reminder of human mortality which despite its morbidity, people are drawn to it because they cannot help but to identify with it. Her use of soundtrack is quite dramatic as well and combined with the images evokes strong emotions to the viewer.

Coming to a conclusion on what is fundamentally different about the two works of art, one could say that Tacita Dean’s piece involves architecture in a metaphorical  way.  Her film is a puzzle to unravel and one can appreciate it for its visually poetic qualities but it is helpful to be given some clues in order to decipher its meaning.

3 stills from Tacita Dean’s ‘Film’ at Tate Modern

On the other hand Bhimji’s film has an immediacy to it. It seems that it reaches the visitor in a visceral way before  engaging  the intellect. All spaces shown, have been inhabited and it is very obvious that life has rubbed off on them. The creator’s lens traces the details almost with compassion.

Not to belittle Dean’s ability to appeal to the visceral or Bhimji’s urge to engage the cerebral, both works of art achieve to address the above with different intensity. Ultimately, it is up to the visitor to appreciate and relate to them. Depending on one’s preferences anyone could identify with one, rather than the other. Definitely they are both worth visiting and are highly recommended.

4 stills from Zarina Bhimji’s ‘Yellow Patch’ at Whitechapel Gallery

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