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Tacita Dean
Sydney International Art Series 2023/24
December 8, 2023–March 3, 2024

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA Australia) presents the largest survey of work by acclaimed artist Tacita Dean.

Based between Berlin and Los Amgeles, Tacita Dean (b. 1965, Canterbury, UK) is renowned for her compelling works in mediums including film, photography, sound, installation, drawing, printmaking and collage. Engaging with themes of landscape, history, mortality, entropy and the passage of time, Dean’s art reflects her sensitivity to and wonder at natural phenomena, her sustained exploration of processes of making, and the lived empathy for a world in flux.

Curated by MCA Australia Director Suzanne Cotter, Senior Curator Exhibitions Jane Devery, and Curator Megan Robson, the exhibition Tacita Dean brings together works created by the artist in the past decade and is composed of inter-related bodies of work made around the world, from Berlin to Los Angeles, Japan and Australia.

This exhibition includes new and recent 16mm and 35mm film works, monumental chalkboard drawings, photographic and print series, and works that have resulted from the artist’s set design for the highly acclaimed The Dante Project, a collaboration with choreographer Wayne McGregor and composer Thomas Adès for The Royal Ballet.

Exhibited together for the first time are Dean’s monumental chalk on blackboard drawings, The Wreck of Hope (2022) and Chalk Fall (2018). Dean’s use of chalk—an unfixed medium—mirrors the fragility of the landscapes she portrays, which are increasingly threatened by our climate emergency. Depicting a glacier melting, The Wreck of Hope, takes its title from a famous painting of the same name by the German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich (b. 1774–d. 1840). The majestic cliff subsiding in Chalk Fall was motivated by Dean’s desire to use chalk to depict chalk collapse in relation to medium extinction and her ongoing struggle to keep photochemical film viable. For the artist, it also resonates with the iconic chalk White Cliffs of Dover and the impact of Brexit.

Direct from its presentation at the Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection in Paris, MCA Australia presents Dean’s most biographical work to date, Geography Biography (2023). The 35mm diptych reflects the artist’s relationship to the world through her ‘cutting room floor’, incorporating outtakes from her 16mm films and her early super and standard 8mm films, to form what she calls an ‘accidental self-portrait’.

Premiering for the first time is Dean’s latest film, Claes Oldenburg draws Blueberry Pie (2023), depicting the late American Pop artist Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929–d. 2022) drawing in his Manhattan studio. Originally filmed in 2010, at the same time Dean filmed her earlier portrait of Oldenburg, Manhattan Mouse Museum (2011), Dean revisited the unused footage after an invitation to write on the artist for October art journal following his death. This in turn led Dean to use other film outtakes in Geography Biography (2023).