Entries in Somerset House (1)
On until the 11th of March, the latest installation in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern is Tacita's Dean's FILM. An arresting analysis of the digital vs analogue argument, FILM fills a gigantic 13 metre screen at the end of the hall, while viewers watch in silence from the balcony or gaze upwards from the ground floor.
Dean's love of analogue and her despair at the closing of London's last 16mm film developing lab were documented in the Guardian by the artist back in February. The loss of analogue formats has long been lamented by artists such as Dean. The tactile quality and rich detail captured by analogue cameras is beautiful to behold, as admirable for the format itself as its content.
The demise of Polaroid marked a particular milestone for the death of the analogue camera; despite Polaroid being the medium of choice for hipster art students (I myself am in possession of an enormous back catalogue of embarrassingly pretentious Polaroid shots from my art school days) the market was no longer big enough to justify its production.
Dean herself spoke of the fact that "film is chemistry: chemistry that has produced the miracle of the moving image", and this is the miracle of analogue formats. Perhaps it is a somewhat old-fashioned stance to take, but the pleasure of shooting with celluloid film or an analogue camera is in having the skill and knowledge to do this not just correctly but with innovation and vision, and then to witness the magic of photo development or working together with an expert film technician to create something truly individual. As Dean says, "My films are depictions of their subject and therefore closer to painting than they are to narrative cinema." The human touch is what makes her work so special, so different from a digital film as CGI is from painting. Bizarrely, the closure of print labs coincides with a huge increase in filmmakers choosing to use celluloid film.
It is not just the art world where the sudden threat of losing access to such media is spurring a newfound love for traditional processes. The past decade has seen a shift in the graphic design and illustration worlds towards processes such as screen-printing, letterpress, and letraset. Young designers' love of these tactile media is evident in the swathe of hand-printed zines, posters and t-shirts that are available at the numerous design and craft fairs that have been springing up all over London in recent years. A backlash against digital saturation? Maybe. Or perhaps a reaction to the straitened times in which we live, a desire to 'do it yourself'.
Here at FIELL we, like most other publishers, often contend with the idea of "the death of print". We strongly believe that as long as people love illustrated books, they will love print - digital products such as apps and eBooks are as valid a medium and extremely powerful, but a digital product is a completely different product. As with analogue and digital film, the experience is visually completely different. The predominance of digital film or digital book products should not automatically eradicate analogue or printed work. The two should complement each other, and be appreciated for what they are; art forms.
Posted by Isabel