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The Redemption of the Obsolete: Materialism and Ontology in Tacita Dean’s “Cinema of Exhibition”

Jihoon KIM 1

1중앙대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This essay examines the ways in which Tacita Dean’s gallery films since the late 1990s —work labeled as the “cinema of exhibition (Jean-Christophe Royoux)” — have engaged with obsolescence on their thematic and formal levels. I argue that Dean’s varied yet consistent preoccupation with obsolescence has served as a nodal point at which her materialist and ontological interests in film converge. From the materialist standpoint,Dean’s minimalist filmmaking marked by her uses of static shots and long takes focusing on a single object or event rehabilitates the now-anachronistic tradition of Structural film in the avant-garde cinema of the 1960s and 1970s, which devoted itself to the selfreflexive scrutiny into film’s materiality and technical processes. At the same time, Dean’s insistence on analogue film as her medium is inextricable from her belief in its analogue capacity to produce the indexical trace of the various objects and events associated with the ideas of obsolescence, decay, or ruin, as well as from her keen recognition that analogue film, its unique material and technical differences, has increasingly become outdated to the extent that it has rapidly been replaced by digital technology from the camera to the projector. Dean’s achievement, then, lies in her incorporation of these two ontological interests into her materialist approaches to film form and material. The interplay of the materialist and ontological dimensions governed by Dean’s engagement with the obsolete in this sense exemplifies an idiosyncratic achievement of the “cinema of exhibition.” For her projected 16mm and 35mm films open up celluloid’s aesthetic and historical possibilities at a time when its heyday has passed, and at a different location (art gallery) from its culturally and institutionally sanctioned place.

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