Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 June 2021
Tacita Dean's Section Cinema (Homage to Marcel Broodthaers), 2002, signals towards the changing nature of artists’ mediums in an age of digital ascendancy. Marcel Broodthaers is a key figure for a younger generation of artists who are registering the shift from analogue mediums to digital ones. Despite the presence of an affiliation between analogue film and chance in numerous projects by Broodthaers, it has gone unnoticed in much of the discourse that surrounds his work. When we view Broodthaers cinema through the lens of Tacita Dean's film, an openness to chance and contingency emerges as the most promising, and most threatened specificity of analogue film.
Keywords: Chance; Tacita Dean; Marcel Broodthaers; film; analogue; Cinema
The title of this chapter references Marcel Broodthaers's Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard (A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance, 1969), which pays homage to Stéphane Mallarmé's 1887 poem of the same name about a shipwreck. Tacita Dean's Section Cinema (Homage to Marcel Broodthaers) (2002) also centres on the motif of a shipwreck that is connected to the workings of chance. Her homage to Broodthaers takes the form of a thirteen-minute, 16mm colour film depicting the basement that once housed Marcel Broodthaers's Section Cinéma (1971–1972). This was one of twelve sections of his fictive museum, the Musée d’Art Moderne, which ran from 1968 to 1972 in various locations. Occupying and registering a significant moment of technological transition, Tacita Dean's homage is also a lament on the changing nature of artist film in an age of digital ascendancy.
Throughout her oeuvre, Dean consistently connects the workings of chance with the indexical specificity of film, and this is also the prevailing concern of Section Cinema (Homage to Marcel Broodthaers). This film is almost documentary in style, as Dean appears to be surveying the basement in the aftermath of an event. The space is now a storeroom for the Stadtmuseum in Düsseldorf; however, many traces of its previous function remain. Dean's camera stalks the space, taking in wide views of the rooms, one of which is now filled with piles of stacked-up chairs (Figure 22). Her film emphasizes the haunted nature of the place by zooming in on these objects, and by lingering on the stencils painted by Broodthaers, which remain on the walls.