On 19 May, Tacita Dean’s exhbition ‘Landscape’ will open at London’s Royal Academy, part of what has been described as an ‘unprecedented collaboration’ with the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery, where the complementary presentations ‘Portraiture’ and ‘Still Life’ are, respectively, already on view. In the thematic conceptualization of this tripartite exhibition, there is clear recourse to the authority of art-historical genres, as if framing Dean’s practice as an extension of painterly traditions might lubricate the entry of the moving image into these august venues.
Landscape can be a throwback, but it is also a distinctly contemporary concern. As the art historian Simon Schama writes in his book Landscape and Memory (1995), it is ‘a text on which generations write their recurring obsessions’. This text continues to be written and rewritten with vigour today – and not only by Dean. Topographic vistas recur across the work of artists inhabiting the documentary mode