Disco Maquette

Sketch, London 
23 Jul – 11 Sep 2004

Martin Coomer, ‘Mark Dean: Disco Maquette’, Time Out No.1774 July 2004
‘Pick of the Week: Mark Dean: Disco Maquette’ Guardian Guide, 28 August 2004
Ian Hunt, ‘Mark Dean’, Art Monthly no.279, September 2004
Joel Robinson, ‘London: Disco Maquette’, Art Papers, January/February 2005


installation view

exhibited works:


I Can’t See (Vertigo) + Untitled (Twisted Motorcycle Gang)



Intersection (53rd & 3rd x 3)


Go Together (The Wild One x 2 – 17) + Untitled (Grace)


gallery information:

Mark Dean predominantly works by culling information from previously existing cultural material – films, literature and popular music – to create his work. To Dean the original form and narrative of these sources is not something that determines his work. Some viewers will recognise the fragments of songs, the faces of actors or culled quotes and some will not. Instead he treats them like raw material. He samples tiny moments of information and weaves them together, mutating and interrelating disparate sources using coincidental linkages and similarities to generate new structures. Dean uses an explicitly mechanical vocabulary to create his work, but the results are as strangely affecting as they are mathematical in construction. He frequently references heightened states – fear, powerlessness, revulsion, ecstasy – but distends them, at once negating their sense of narrative agency whilst multiplying their temporal potency to present the viewer with hypnotic continuums that tap directly into our emotional and psychological landscapes. Disco Maquette conjures up the idea of both remixes and sculptural models. The exhibition comprises three new works – some of which remix material that previously existed as single screen videos – especially constructed by Dean to respond to the specificity of the projection configuration at Sketch. But rather than utilizing the wide-screen format that is integrated into Sketch’s Kubrick-esque interior, Dean has chosen to trade its inherent polish for a more intrusive idea of scale, showing the works in 4:3 academy ratio so that they spill untidily out of their expected frame to encroach on the high-backed benches, the top of doors and other architectural details. It is a gesture that seems to amplify the suspect atmosphere that permeates the looped triumvirate of triptychs Dean has constructed from Heavy Metal and Punk songs, B movies, Hollywood classics and German cinema.

I Can’t See (Twisted) 1999/2004 features a black and white graphic like a spiraling tunnel rotating against a black background at the centre of the triptych. On either side a mirrored and doubled black & white image of a woman wearing a vintage motorcycle helmet that echoes the central image lies on the ground, but the image has been inverted so she appears crucified on an impossible slope. As the piece progresses the spiral spins increasingly fast accompanied by the pulsing soundtrack of a man repeatedly singing “I can’t see the things that make true happiness I must be blind”. A strobe light pulses behind the speeding spiral, their frequencies clashing to create chaotic phase-changes at the centre of the triptych, and as it does, the viewer becomes aware the prone woman is breathing in time to the spiral’s revolutions whilst a pair of ragged shadows flap over her like huge wings. The piece builds and builds speed, the spiral spinning faster and faster, the shadowy wings beating and the woman’s chest heaving and falling inhumanly fast as if in some kind of diabolic ecstasy.

With its halting repetition Intersection (53rd & 3rd x 3) 2003 literally functions as a crossroads between the first and third work. Against a stop/start punk soundtrack of the phrase ‘53rd & 3rd’ being shouted 3 times a black & white triptych unfolds with a man cradling a blond girl’s head on his lap on the left and a blond woman cradling a distraught man’s head in her lap on the right, punctuated by the image of an intersection of American roads repeatedly played forwards and backwards. None of the protagonists faces are visible due to the camera angles and editing and the speculation arises that the man and young girl in the left panel may be the same couple in the right panel, their roles reversed by time. There is the sensation of something amiss in the relationship, of the exaggerated darkness of the first work dissolving into something more ambiguous but more suspect because of that.

In the final work Go Together (Grace) 1997/2004, this sensation collapses into curtailment and despair. Relocating the engine of the work to the central frame as in the first work, Go Together (Grace) is built around a loop of a woman declaring to a man “I wish I was going some place. I wish you were going some place. We could go together” against a looped backdrop of mournfully oscillating strings. Her companion sits impassive as if she is imploring the viewer rather than him, whilst on either side a glamorous woman repeatedly closes a door firmly in a man’s face as the ghost of her image kisses him on the lips. The images conspire to concoct a sense of emotional separation, of unfulfilled desires and finality. Although separate works and in themselves not narrative in nature, in Disco Maquette Dean’s three pieces build into a peculiar and rather desolate suggestion of our need for connection and our inability to find it told through the composite characters he skillfully fashions from the second-hand.’

– Simon Morrissey


Ian Hunt, ‘Mark Dean: Disco Maquette’, Art Monthly no.279, September 2004

Previous works by Mark Dean have managed to open out towards strong emotions while retaining the distinctive constructedness of visual art. The strong content lives and is transformed rather than functioning as reference pure and simple. Sometimes this depends on a formal element that you can hear but not comprehend. In The Return of Jackie and Judy (+ Joey), 2002, it was a song by the Ramones whose speed had been slowed down and then speeded up, but whose pitch had been corrected to stay true to the original. I did not understand the technical process at the time and was held simply by what I heard. It is important to stress this crafted opening to cathartic possibility and to the unconscious, because Dean has found means here that are primary, not borrowed from the films or music that are his materials.

At Sketch, the projections are repeated on all walls. On one screen, a blond woman, perhaps still a girl, rests her head in a man’s lap. His hand reaches to stroke her hair, his face is not visible. On the other, again seen from a high angle so that we cannot locate the figures clearly, the positions are reversed. Here it is a man, covering his eyes as though to hide whatever feelings may be showing, who rests his head in the lap of a woman whose face we don’t see. To rest your head in another’s lap is a sign of trust but also of emotional abandonment, a wish to be mothered. What desolations or adventures these slowed extracts are part of, however, we are not told. The music, a three-piece punk track, stops and starts: the single lyric is ’53rd and 3rd’. Between the two diagonal compositions in this triptych – Europe on the left, America to the right – is a street at night, coded as American by the steam from a vent. Headlights emerge and the steam is rewound, like explosions in reverse. Intersection (53rd & 3rd x 3), 2003 depicts vulnerability, and a proximity to situations that may be fucked up or unravelling, but the soundtrack, mixed differently three times, offers excitement as a way of framing it or indeed of theming it. It is as though we are offered a protected glimpse of situations that we are not required to fall into.

The other two works shown in ‘Disco Maquette’ were remixes of existing works for the three-projector per wall set-up at Sketch, a ballroom of a gallery in a swanky, event restaurant in the West End. The glamour of the location – properly curated as the gallery itself is proving – found an almost worryingly precise complement in Dean’s projections. One decision proved significant, however. Instead of confining the image to the wall space, the projectors were set at what is called Academy ratio, 4:3, and so spilled over the seating, the exit signs, the doors. By reminding you very definitely of the physical and social facts of the gallery, by playing at not fitting in, Dean ensured his works weren’t assimilable as coolness, as decor, but had to be thought about as art.

He has his own interest in glamour, in stars, of course: the third work Go Together (Grace), 1997/2004, doubles up mirrored footage from To Catch a Thief where Grace Kelly is closing the door on Cary Grant, and also leaning forward to kiss him. The two actions are superimposed in a hypnotic, bouncing action and at a certain point the two Graces resolve into each other. It is a magnificent evocation of love for an image whose condition is that it is fleeting, but also gently and formally comical: she is kissing the door. The central screen similarly involves superimpositions, but is bleaker. The woman speaks, the man, Brando in motorbike gear, is impassive. ‘I wish I was going some place. I wish you were going some place. We could go together.’ The phrases collide, but aren’t going no place, no how. The motorbike as an agent of possible transcendence, of escape, is implied also in I Can’t See (Twisted), 1999/2004. Here the flanking images are themselves doubled up, and show a woman motorbiker in striped crash helmet, flung clear from her machine. The image is rotated so she appears suspended on the earth, as though crucified. Her breathing is progressively quickened to pulse with the quickening strobe of the spinning central image: the op record label that released the song from which we hear a line. The music is accounted as heavy metal, though the category was then young. Overall, you feel excluded from whatever ecstasy may be figured here, the paradox of much religious art.

It is not preference for the underdog that leads so many people in conversation to compare Dean favourably with Douglas Gordon, but a recognition of the qualities of care in the realisation of the work and its very different way with feeling.