Tacita Dean: Woman with a Red Hat (4 stars)

Tacita Dean: Woman with a Red Hat

Fruitmarket curator Fiona Bradley explores the theme of performance in the work of Tacita Dean

Given that every space in Edinburgh, from a concert hall to a phone box, gets turned into a theatre in August, it's appropriate that the theme of performance also echoes through the Edinburgh Art Festival programme. Fruitmarket curator Fiona Bradley is the first to explore the theme in the work of Tacita Dean, who has returned to it a number of times in different ways in the last 25 years.

The central work here is 'Event for a Stage', a filmed performance by the actor Stephen Dillane which will be screened roughly hourly in the gallery, almost like a Fringe show. Although the mechanics of performance in it are laid bare, it grips us nonetheless. Like Shakespeare's Tempest, which Dillane quotes from, it manages to explore the power of performance, while still using that magic on its audience.

Her 1996 work 'Foley Artist' works in a similar way: she films two foley artists (themselves practitioners of a dying art) creating the sound effects for a film: clacking high heels on wet newspaper, rippling a big sheet of metal for thunder. The magic is debunked, and yet it isn't: what they're doing seems as magical as ever.

Dean's medium of choice is film (always analogue, not digital) but she also references it in works such as 'The Russian Ending', a series of prints made using found postcards to create "sad" endings for a series of fictitious films, and 'When first I raised the tempest', a blackboard drawing nearly 10 metres long which has a filmic quality: it's so long, it has to be experienced in time, not in a single stationary gaze.

Recent work has focussed on actors. 'His picture in little' is a miniature portrait featuring three actors who have played Hamlet (from which the title comes) - Dillane, David Warner and Ben Whishaw - using a masking technique to place their portraits in the same frame. By inviting performers not to perform, she poses questions not only about acting but about the nature of portraiture itself.

Fruitmarket Gallery until Sun 30 Sep.

Tacita Dean: Woman with a Red Hat

  • 4 stars

This exhibition of work by acclaimed British artist Tacita Dean is built around regular screenings of Dean’s ‘bewilderingly intricate’ Event for a Stage, 2015. This film (which has been cut together over four nights of live performance) features actor Stephen Dillane variously acting from a script written for and given to…

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