Tacita Dean / Daniel Young & Christian Giroux at TIFF Bell Lightbox

“We preserve film, collect film and restore film”, TIFF’s Director of Exhibitions, Laurel MacMillan

It’s fascinating to see how film has evolved since its first large-motion screen picture in 1896 to what it is today. The advancements have continuously put us in awe and made us wonder how they could project a particular moment on screen. Though film has changed and improved technically and technologically, we mustn’t forget about the 35mm film that has become a diminishing medium and rarely used in cinema.

This year TIFF’s Director of Exhibitions Laurel MacMillan has worked with and chosen visual artists who not only continue to use the 35mm film but also push the boundaries by modernizing the ways in which the medium can be used.

“Curating this exhibition, I wanted to look at visual artists who are working with 35mm film. So it’s different then filmmakers making a film shown in cinema, but the medium is the same, MacMillan explains. “Both of the artists are pushing that medium to its limits. Changing it, working with it and manipulating it. They’re not just shooting the film…they’re using it as an artistic medium and changing it”.

The two installations exhibited are both works shot with 35mm film yet the ways in which they do it is surprisingly very different.

Daniel Young & Christian Giroux: Berlin 2012/1983

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Daniel Young & Christian Giroux Berlin 2012/1983, 2015. Image courtesy Daniel Young & Christian Giroux

In this installment, 2 films are projected side by side – both sides were shot in Berlin. On one side, the images of the buildings were built between 2012-2013 and on the other are shots of the buildings that were built approximately 30 years earlier. The buildings from both sides are close in proximity to one another where one was built in a radically defined time (1983 – during the fall of the Berlin Wall) and the other was modern day. When you watch the images side by side, there is practically no difference between the two images. Young and Giroux use the silent installation of 35mm film to metaphorically allow viewers to interpret how two very different times can still physically look the same.

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Daniel Young & Christian Giroux Berlin 2012/1983, 2015. Image courtesy Daniel Young & Christian Giroux

MacMillan described the challenges they faced when trying to recreate the vision of these artists saying that, “Normally when a 34mm film is projected, it runs 24 frames per second but this [Berlin 2012/1983] is one frame per second. What normally happens when you film that slow is that the film burns. We [Projections at TIFF] had to modify the projectors and add heat shields towards the lights to be able to do the effect the artists wanted. They [Young & Giroux] wanted to emphasize that film is a still images, but the frames run so fast that it turns into a moving image”.

Tacita Dean: JG

35mm colour and black-and-white anamorphic film with optical sound, 26.5 min., 2013

JG, 2013. 35mm anamorphic colour and black & white film, 26 1-2 minutes. Film still_19
Tacita Dean JG, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York & Paris and Frith Street Gallery, London

Tacita Dean is more of an internationally known visual artist and filmmaker. Like Young and Giroux, she pushes the boundaries and modernizes the medium by creating ways to use the 35mm in different and new ways. Dean uses a masking technique, where she films one scene with a mask around it blocking off the rest of the shot, then creates another shot with a mask finally combining the two completely different shots into one shot. “With Digital this is easy to do”, explains MacMillan, “but not with 35mm film”. Dean has expressed that using this technique in 35mm film has its risks, since she doesn’t know what she’s going to get until after the shot is completed – and unlike digital – it can’t be fixed.

JG, 2013. 35mm anamorphic colour and black & white film, 26 1-2 minutes. Film still_16
Tacita Dean JG, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York & Paris and Frith Street Gallery, London

Tacita Dean really shows that using 35mm film is still interesting even though others may see it as outdated.

JG, 2013. 35mm anamorphic colour and black & white film, 26 1-2 minutes. Film still_20
Tacita Dean JG, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York & Paris and Frith Street Gallery, London

Visit the HSBC Gallery at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for FREE from June 12 to August 23 to explore Tacita Dean and Young & Christian Giroux’s take on the traditional 35mm film. Plus, there will be a public opening reception tonight Friday, June 12 from 8pm to 10pm with the artists in attendance.

Visiting the exhibit? Tweet us @novellamagazine & @TIFF_NET with #35mmArt.