Tacita Dean – The Presentation Sisters

Amongst the exhibits showing as part of the Edinburgh International Festival series on ‘Enlightenment’, this 60 minute film by Tacita Dean blew me away.  Shot on 16mm anamorphic film (ie very widescreen) it is a series of long images of the 5 remaining nuns in a large convent in Ireland going about their daily routine.  The film manages to convey stillness through activity such as gardening, making bread, doing the laundry, or watching the footie.  The footage of the nuns saying their evening prayers conveys a routine familiarity, so that it becomes no more spiritually significant than doing the washing.   The film is luminescant: the sun illuminating all sorts of humdrum corners and making them somehow special.  At one point the camera lingers on a grey vauxhall corsa parked below outside which the nuns get into.. however the sun splashes onto the roof of the car and refracts in all directions making this routine little motor look like a heavenly chariot.

I saw a small fraction of the film when I first went but didn’t have time to linger, so I went back and sat through the whole hour.  How wonderful to have such a fantastic artwork showing here in Edinburgh.

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