The UK artist Tacita Dean says she hopes the film director Christopher Nolan will triumph at the Oscars in March after his blockbuster movie about the father of the atomic bomb bagged 13 Academy Award nominations.
“I am rooting for Chris Nolan because he is the advocate for photochemical film in Hollywood. Oppenheimer is entirely shot on photochemical film; he shoots real effects and that is why they’re more embedded in the film. He did the atomic explosions photochemically; he did it with frame rate and in miniature. He’s very technical,” Dean tells The Art Newspaper. In 2015, she appeared with Nolan at an event called Reframing the Future of Film at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Dean continues to be a passionate and dedicated campaigner for the continued production and use of chemical film in the face of the growing dominance of digital film-making. FILM (2011), the first moving-image commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, was her silent celebration of the masterful techniques of analogue film-making.
Her most recent analogue film piece, Geography Biography (2023), was shown at the Bourse de Commerce—Pinault Collection in Paris last year. “I put a lot of my energy into saving photochemical things and trying to preserve technical knowledge inside the photochemical industry,” she says.
According to Digital Camera World, Oppenheimer was shot entirely on Imax 65mm and Panavision 65mm film using some of the highest resolution film cameras available. Imax 65mm from the cameras was transferred onto 70mm film for projection in an Imax 70mm cinema. (Nolan has always recommended that viewers get the full Imax 70mm experience.)
Jack Wentworth-Weedon, the events coordinator at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, says in a recent blog: “70mm is a must-see experience for film fans. It’s the quality that digital has been working towards and there’s a whole industry of movie-effects makers that have been trying to recreate its unique look.”
Dean adds: “Covid came and the whole of cinema was in jeopardy; people thought we didn’t need to gather together to watch a film. But we have to work hard to keep the institution of cinema. It was always the hope that people would cross cities to see a film in 70mm. After the 70mm release of Oppenheimer, the studios are thinking of releasing more films in 70mm.
“If you’re sitting in a movie theatre, the institution of cinema makes people, especially teenagers, stay there until the end, and we cannot underestimate the importance of that. This does not happen with streaming. Chris is always trying to save the institution of cinema.”
Dean’s 16mm and 35mm films, drawings on blackboard, photogravures, collages, sound works and found object pieces form one of the most poetic bodies of work in contemporary art, wrote Ben Luke, The Art Newspaper's contributing editor and podcast host in 2021.
Dean was born in 1965 in Canterbury in the UK, but for most of her life as an artist has lived outside Britain, mainly in Berlin, which has provided the location for some of her most compelling works. She now splits her time between the German capital and Los Angeles.