Tacita Dean (born 1965 in Canterbury, England; lives and works in Berlin, Germany).
Film, 16 mm, projection, color, and sound; 10 min, 30 sec.
“…Palast was created in Berlin, where the artist has lived since she undertook a DAAD fellowship with the Berlin Artist-in-Residence programme in 2000. It comprises a sequence of still shots angled at the reflective surfaces of bronze-mirrored windows on the Palast der Republik, or the Palace of the Republic, a government building opened in 1976 in former East Berlin serving primarily as the seat of the German Democratic Republic parliament—the Volkskammer. Built on the site of the former Hohenzollern palace (the Stadtschloss or City Palace), an ornate baroque palace, the Palast der Republik embodied the architectural style of the socialist government—a grand, imposing rectangular block, clad in white marble with 180 metres of windowed façade… Dean’s film looks at the building close up—only ever showing a section of the windowed walls and giving no sense of its vast scale. Instead, the camera focuses on the visual effects of changing light as the sun sets. Tightly cropped shots of the gridded windows show rectangles of brilliant yellow and glowing gold, abstracted compositions interrupted by the silhouette of a streetlamp, the reflection of a church crucifix or a white X mysteriously inscribed on a single pane of glass. While the soundtrack features the banal ambient noise of the street, including the sound of cars and the rumble of a motorbike, footsteps, clocks chiming, female voices speaking in German and dusk birdsong, the visual imagery becomes increasingly apocalyptic as the sun sets, reflected on the surface of the windows and framed by the industrial grid structure of the window cladding as a white ball of fire in a dramatic sea of red and orange…
“From the timelessness of the sunset sky on fire, the camera returns to the world of contemporary humans, showing twentieth-century graffiti in pale blue and black on the window surfaces before catching distorted silhouettes of figures with horses that belong to a public monument reflected in the window glass. Finally the film lingers on the baroque outlines and green domes of a church standing next to the palace; by this time the luminous intensity of the setting sun has lessened and the colours have faded to rich pastels with only a fluorescent tube creating a strip of livid white and green light. Fixed in a continuous ten-and-a-half minute loop, the film then returns from dusk to the gold tones of its beginning…”
—Elizabeth Manchester, “Tacita Dean: Palast,” Tate website, September 2009.
“Well, I was reading the ‘ABCs of TCD,’ and the author Mark Godfrey describes the reflective windows of Palast der Republik as the center of the GDR government, as keeping the oppressive regime concealed. But from what I’ve heard about it, it’s also where they had a lot of their festivals. I thought it was a place many East Germans remember fondly…”
—Jeffrey Eugenides, interview with Tacita Dean, BOMB, Spring 2008.