Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tacita Dean at Aradia University Gallery

There are certain presumptions that run through the film, JG by British artist, Tacita Dean that derail her objective though she certainly gets an A plus for effort. At face value, the film, although purportedly about film itself (its physical development as a medium), is an homage to British writer, JG Ballard, known mostly for his Science Fiction and mythic artist, Robert Smithson, re-known for Spiral Jetty. Smithson is not just any artist and Ballard, not just any SF writer; so, what is the connection to the film? Known as the American, Philip K. Dick, Ballard’s pervasive influence is casually referred to as Ballardian. The objective of JG is complex and so is the resulting film but essentially it is trying to conjure the same sphere of mystical invention as the other two. Dean does not succeed fully no matter how technically intricate and well constructed her film. Her explanation is that JG is about the nature of film and its coming demise. But how does it address the transition between the magical filmic photographic process to dullest digital? For that, I believe, you must unravel the future and not just the past; perfect subject for Ballard! Somehow Dean gets bogged down in technicalities and even actual film “sprockets.” This seems facile and illustrative. The mandala's coil and Salt Lake's crystals referenced in the film are interesting particularly if Smithson was inspired by Ballards’ 1960 Science Fiction story, The Silence of Time, now out of print – apparently, Smithson owned the book at the time of his tragic, early death in 1973. However, the depth of Ballard’s influence isn’t explored enough. Had the JG included more voice-overs from both Ballard's story and Smithson’s detailed diaries, the precise intersect might have been made more evident.

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