Tacita Dean is one of Britain’s most respected and successful international artists. This year has been a busy one for her, with exhibitions at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery focusing on the genres of landscape, portraiture and still life. Taking theatre and performance as its theme, our exhibition complements these showings, and is presented in the context of the Edinburgh International Festival, the world’s pre-eminent celebration of the performing arts.
The exhibition is built around Dean’s film Event for a Stage (2015), in which actor Stephen Dillane delivers a virtuoso solo performance: it is a performance about performing, given by an actor playing the part of an actor. As the film moves swiftly backwards and forwards between ‘reality’ and ‘illusion’, the audience never quite knows how much of what we are seeing to believe – much of the script concerns the role of text, actor and audience in creating and preserving the ‘magic of suspended disbelief that is the theatre’.
Event for a Stage is joined in the exhibition by a selection of works brought together for the first time that focus on ideas related to acting and the theatre, including her recent film miniature His Picture in Little of three actors who all played Hamlet on the London stage and her early installation Foley Artist that uses the fiction of sound in cinema to portray the actions of a theatre usherette. The exhibition also includes blackboard drawing and photogravures that together examine performance and its relationship to fiction, the imagination and the collective effort of artist and audience. Turning truth into fiction and unspooling the threads of narrative even as they seem to be weaving them into a convincing tale, these beguiling, entrancing works offer another window into the imagination of this most complex of artists.
Tacita Dean Woman with a Red Hat is part of Edinburgh Art Festival, 26 July – 26 August 2018.