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Arcadia University Art Gallery to present

a new film project by Tacita Dean

Glenside, PA — December 20, 2012  Arcadia University Art Gallery is pleased to announce the presentation of JG, a film by internationally acclaimed British-born, Berlin-based artist Tacita Dean. Commissioned by and made for the Gallery, JG is funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and will be on view from February 7 through April 21, 2013.

Organized by gallery director Richard Torchia, the exhibition will commence with a lecture by Dean in the Great Room of the University Commons, Thursday, February 7, at 6:30 PM. A reception will follow in the Commons at 7:30 PM. (Admission is free but reservations are required and can be made at NOTE: JG will available for public viewing from 6:30 PM until 10 PM on the evening of Feb. 7.)

JG is a sequel in technique to FILM, Dean’s 2011 project for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, London. It is inspired by her correspondence with British author J. G. Ballard (1930 - 2009) regarding connections between his short story “The Voices of Time” (1960) and Robert Smithson’s iconic earthwork and film Spiral Jetty (both works, 1970). The new 26 ½ minute work is a looped 35mm anamorphic film shot on location in the saline landscapes of Utah and Southern California using Dean’s recently developed and patented system of aperture gate masking. An unprecedented departure from her previous 16mm films, JG tries to respond to Ballard’s challenge—posed to her shortly before he died—that Dean should “treat the Spiral Jetty as a mystery her film would solve.”

JG advances the aperture gate masking invention that Dean developed for FILM. This labor-intensive process, analogous to a form of stenciling, allows her to use different shaped masks to expose and re-expose the negative within a single film frame. Requiring that the film be put through the camera multiple times, the technique gives each frame the capacity to traverse time and location in ways that parallel the effects of Ballard’s fiction and Smithson’s earthwork and film. The process also serves to restore the spontaneity and invention that distinguished early cinema in comparison to the relative ease and what Dean calls “the end of risk” afforded by digital postproduction.

Among the masks used in JG is one that references the template and sprocket holes of a strip of 35mm Ektachrome (slide) film. Serving to explore the tension between the still and moving image that has distinguished Dean’s work from the outset, this Ektachrome mask is a reference to Ballard’s own 35mm camera, which was given to Dean by Claire Walsh, the author’s longtime partner, just prior to the shoot and which is depicted in the film. The black unexposed outlines of the other masks—a range of abstract and organic forms that suggest mountainous horizons, planets, pools, and Smithson’s jetty—appear to be traced by hand. JG is a work that could only be made using 35mm film, but it is also about drawing and collage and, as such, strives to return film to the physical, artisanal medium it was at its origin.

“Mindful of Smithson’s film of his own earthwork,” says Torchia, “as well the medium’s dependency on the spooling and looping of celluloid though camera and projector, JG proposes a matrix of visual and literary correspondences that pushes previously unimagined capacities of film. The result is a visually stunning, elliptical interpretation of a speculative conversation between Ballard, Smithson, and Dean that reaches across decades and disciplines.”  

Events & Concurrent Exhibitions

The 11-week run of JG will coincide with events and exhibitions in Philadelphia and New York. International House (3701 Chestnut St.) begins a Ballard-themed film series on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 7:00 PM, with remarks by Dean. The featured films, Ballard’s favorites chosen with the assistance of Claire Walsh, include the Russian war epic Come and See (1985) on Feb. 5, the sci-fi adventure Mad Max 2 (1981) on March 1, and the film noir Point Blank (1967) on March 27. Together, they comprise a vision of “dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes, and the psychological effects of technological, social, or environmental developments,” which is how the Collins English Dictionary defines the adjective “Ballardian.” For more information on these films, visit

Dean’s 2008 installation Merce Cunningham Performs STILLNESS… (six performances, six films) will be presented at Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop and Museum (1214 Arch St.) from Feb. 2 through March 17, 2013 ( In New York, the Marian Goodman Gallery will present Fatigues, a large-scale blackboard drawing that Dean created for Documenta 13, from Feb. 1 to March 9, 2013 (

Additional events at Arcadia will continue through the end of April, including a lecture on April 10 by V. Vale, the San Francisco-based publisher of RE/Search editions whose 1984 monograph on Ballard (No. 8/9) played a critical role in expanding the audience for the author in the 1980s.

Accompanying Publications

JG is accompanied by two publications. Key Stroke is a collaborative artists’ book featuring photographs that Dean took on location with Ballard’s 35mm camera and facsimiles of a manuscript by British novelist Will Self produced on Ballard’s typewriter, also given to him by Walsh. A second publication prepared for the exhibition includes short texts by British artist, curator and writer Jeremy Millar, Walsh, Dean, and Torchia. Illustrated with stills from the film, facsimiles of Dean's correspondence with Ballard, as well as other images contextualizing the project, the book is designed by Dean’s long-term collaborator Martyn Ridgewell.

Gallery Hours

  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays: 10 AM to 5 PM
  • Thursdays: 10 AM to 8 PM
  • Fridays: 10 AM to 5 PM
  • Weekends: Noon to 4 PM and by appointment

(Note: JG is a looping film and will be shown continuously during gallery hours.)

For more information on JG, visit

About Tacita Dean

Tacita Dean was born in 1965 in Canterbury, UK. She studied at Falmouth School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art before moving to live and work in Berlin in 2000. She is esteemed for her drawings, photographs, prints, and sound works, as well as her artist books and texts. She is best known, however, for her films, which she began exhibiting in galleries in the mid-1990s, making her one of the first artists of her generation to dedicate herself to the medium. She is fascinated by the dynamics between the materiality of celluloid and the passage of time, which she employs in the service of narrative, however apparent or oblique, and regardless of her subjects, which include artists, anachronistic architecture, and landscape. Characterized by static camera positions, long takes, and ambient sound, her films are imbued by an uncanny stillness that elicits meditative forms of attention. Dean’s acute regard for light and subtle forms of motion combine to create singular evocations of sensibility and place, the spirit of the moment, and the essence of film itself.

The exhibition brings Dean back to Philadelphia where the Institute of Contemporary Art was the site of her first museum survey in 1998. Dean has also held solo exhibitions at Tate Britain, London (2001), Schaulager, Basel (2006), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2007), Nicola Trussardi Foundation, Milan (2009), and MUMOK, Vienna (2011). She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1998 and received the Hugo Boss Prize in 2006 and the Kurt Schwitters Prize in 2009. In 2011 she made FILM as part of the Unilever Series of commissions for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. In 2012, Dean had solo exhibitions at the Norton Museum of Art, Miami; the New Museum, New York; and Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany (2012).

About Arcadia University Art Gallery

A nationally recognized venue for contemporary art in the greater Philadelphia area, Arcadia University Art Gallery is a 1,100-square-foot facility (housed in a 1893 power station) that has for over 30 years provided the region with a stimulating roster of individual and thematic exhibitions shaped by its mission to encourage dialogue among artists, educators, students and the general public about current visual art and its socio-cultural relevance.

About Arcadia University

Arcadia University is a top-ranked private university in metropolitan Philadelphia and a national leader in study abroad and international education. The 2012 Open Doors report ranks Arcadia University #1 in the nation in undergraduate study abroad. U.S. News also ranks Arcadia’s Physical Therapy program among the top 14 in the nation. Arcadia’s Physician Assistant students score in the elite 4th percentile on national boards. Arcadia University promises a distinctively global, integrative and personal learning experience that prepares students to contribute and prosper in a diverse and dynamic world. For more information, visit

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