Tacita Dean is interested in anachronisms; in things that do not fit in with our current times. In the series Darmstädter Werkblock she homes in on dilapidated, decaying hessian walls on the brink of disappearing.
Controversy about worn-down exhibition spaces
The series Darmstädter Werkblock shows the walls in an art installation by the artist Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) at the museum of cultural history in Darmstadt, Germany. The story behind the series begins with the fierce discussions that raged in German media when the museum announced its intention to renovate their worn-down exhibition spaces.
The walls of the space were clad in hessian; a coarse canvas-type material made from plant fibres. The question was, then, whether the 1970s-style brown hessian walls should be recreated, or whether the rooms should be modernised and painted white? Tacita Dean became interested in this discussion, and she did what she always does when something attracts her attention – she visited the place.
Tacita Dean’s original idea was to film Beuys’ installation in the original space before the décor might disappear forever. But when Dean’s proposal was rejected by the museum she turned her attention instead to the brown hessian of the walls and their holes, tears, patches, and fraying edges.
Contributing to the ongoing discussion
Dean downplays the overarching narrative about the controversy surrounding the modernisation of the exhibition spaces, focusing instead on the hessian walls and their expressive decay, documenting them in close-ups. The result is the film Darmstädter Werkblock, which makes a new contribution to the ongoing discussion. The series of prints shown in the exhibition were created on the basis of stills from her film.