Tacita Dean: Kunstverein Fur Die Rheinlande Und Westfalen

Article excerpt

ZTRATA, Czech for "loss," is written in white chalk on a blackboard. A young man erases the word with a washcloth that he then throws out the window--a concrete demonstration of the word's meaning. This scene from Tacita Dean's film of the same name, shot during the British artist's 1991 sojourn in Prague and edited in 2002, concentrates the central motifs of her artistic approach: the relationship between signifier and signified; the dialectic of presence and absence; and the visualization of these relationships or the withholding of this visualization, that is, its "loss" themes that become especially important vis-a-vis questions of memory.

In recent years, Dean has created highly acclaimed films, videos, and drawings that take as their starting point the theme of memory, the layering of different points in time and the bringing to life--and often the slipping away--of past events. Her video From Columbus Ohio to the Partially Buried Woodshed, 1999, records a search for traces of Robert Smithson's Partially Buried Woodshed, 1970, which ends prosaically in a parking lot at Kent State University. The film Disappearance at Sea, 1996, is based on the true story of Donald Crowhurst, a sailor who vanished in 1968 when, alone at the mercy of the mighty ocean, he became disoriented-his sense of space and time failed him.

Here in Dusseldorf, Dean's large-format chalk drawings portray a similar situation: Like a storyboard to a film, the left panel shows a ship fighting the waves on the high seas, while on the right it has begun to sink. A dramatic scene of catastrophe, but, given the brief, direction-like notes strewn throughout, not without wit: The direction CUT appears on the right edge of the image, where the story seems to have come to its end. …