Tacita Dean


When I start to write there are some themes which keeps popping up from my subconsciousness. One of these themes could be labelled sea-voyages, or expeditions to remote places. When writing I often find my self (imaginary) lost in the most faraway places of the world.

My fascination for The Arctic and Antarctica, and for empty spaces, is related to this subconscious drive. And so is, I believe, my interest for writers and artists such as; Annie Dillard, Judith Schalansky, Rebecca Solnit, Thoreau and Tacita Dean.

Here is a work by Dean:

Tacita DeanThe Roaring Forties: Seven Boards in Seven Days (Board 4) 1997
© Tacita Dean, courtesy Frith Street Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery

Tacita Dean’s The Roaring Forties: Seven Boards in Seven Days (1997) is composed of seven eight-foot-square blackboard panels bearing white chalk drawings and fragments of written script. They describe the progress of a sea adventure, complete with raging storms, an imperilled crew and an eventual homecoming.

As its full title suggests, the series was made over seven days, with Dean working in situ at The Drawing Center in New York.

The Roaring Forties refers to a zone in the southern Atlantic, between 40° and 50° latitude, infamous for its treacherous winds. The drawings were made at the beginning of 1997, just a few months after Dean completed her breakthrough film, Disappearance at Sea (1996), which she famously related to the ill-fated sea voyage of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Esa says:

    You may be aware of these already, but there is a TV mini-series called ‘ The Last Place on Earth ‘ about the 1912 race to the south pole between Amundson and Scott that was very good. And also, ‘ The Terror ‘ by Dan Simmons- a novel about the Franklin Expedition, with a horrific twist. I haven’t read it yet, but understand it is quite good.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you, I have not heard about “The Terror”, have to check it out. These days two new biographies on Nansen are being published here in Norway – it is a Nansen year 🙂

  2. Caroline says:

    This reminds me of the movie Far North I watched recently. Very hard to watch but based on a wonderful short story that I enjoyed a lot (by Sara Maitland). It is based on an Inuit tale. The remote and vast landscape was beautiful. The story is very subtle but the movie ending is so gory.
    A very successful German novel Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit by Sten Nadolny is also based on the Franklin expedition.
    I didn’t know Tacita Dean’s work. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Dear Caroline, thank you for writing!

      I read Sara Maitland’s “A Book of Silence” last year, and found it very interesting and pertinent (if this is the right word here?) for my own writing. I do not share her religious beliefs, but her search for silence is something that I absolutely recognize. And I enjoy the way she writes about it very much.

      “Far North” is new to me – both the film and story.
      Had to look up your word gory, and got scared right away, I’m so easily scared – But I will definitively read the short story …

      Your mentioning of Stan Nadolny got me thinking, I remember the name, but am very sure I haven’t read any of his book. So I went searching in our book shelves, and there it was, in German, read by my husband who, in contrast to his wife, reads German very well.

      Have you read the Nadolny?

  3. Caroline says:

    How interesting. I didn’t know that book of Sara Maitland. I will see if I can find it.
    Well I’m not all that easily scared but that movie really shocked me a bit. The beginning is so good. The ending is good as well but seeing it… Really gruesome.
    I studied cultural anthropology (among other things) and specialized in religions. Mythology was a favourite subject. I remember that many myths are very bloody. Like some fairytales. When we read them we do not (or I did not) picture them so literally. There is one Cinderella version, the Grimm’s “Aschenbrödel” in which the step sisters cut off their toes to get into the slippers…. If Far North was based on that you would see this in a lot of detail.
    I haven’t read Nadolny yet. I bought it and always meant to read it. I think it must be very good.

  4. Caroline says:

    oh… and, you are welcome.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Did you ever see Lars von Triers movie “Antichrist”? It is gruesome all the way trough, but as I see it, still a fantastically well made and interesting film. It is playing on several myths, amongst them the Oedipus, but the ending can be read/seen up against another drama: The Bacchantes (Les Bacchantes). In the last scene of the film the male protagonist is descending down from the mountains through a wood. In the wood he is met by a group of women. We can not see who they are, if they are friendly or threatening him. The set is eerie -most of all because it is unexplained. It reminded me of The Bacchantes, even if no violence was displayed.
      I have yet to se any critic or writer comment on this possible connection, so I might have to do some further research and comparison on it myself. It might just be a parallel drawn in my head after all.

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