Laurent Delaye Gallery, London
15 Jan – 27 Feb 1999

Roy Exley, ‘Mark Dean: Dust’, Untitled, No. 18, Spring 1999
Sue Hubbard, ‘Mark Dean: Laurent Delaye Gallery’, Time Out No. 1076, February 1999

exhibited works:




The End (Mad Max + 90 x 4)





Untitled (My Way Home+-, resting pulse)





New Life (Frankenstein drawn & quartered)


gallery information:

Dust constitutes a complex body of interrelating works dealing with subtle observations on rebirth and self-replication, in which death becomes the inseparable other.

Untitled (My Way Home+-, resting pulse) takes as its starting point a trilogy of autobiographical films by Bill Douglas which represent the childhood and youth of the filmmaker, born into poverty, and ending with his introduction to art through a relationship with a more experienced man. However, Mark Dean has unearthed a biography beyond the narrative of the film. When Bill Douglas embarked on his trilogy, he travelled back to his birthplace in search of an actor to play himself. At a bus stop he met the young Stephen Archibald, whom, in a strange repetition, he initiated into the world of art as the star of his films. “Of course, the inevitable had happened and he wanted to act for the rest of his days” wrote Douglas. Unlike the character he played however, Stephen Archibald did not escape his childhood home, and died last year in unknown circumstances following a life punctuated by illness, drugs and imprisonment. Earlier, he had said: “I always waited on Bill coming back with another film. And then he died and my film career was finished. I’ll never make another one”. Stephen Archibald as Bill Douglas as Mark Dean hovers on the threshold of sleep and death, with the breath of life occasionally rippling through him. His is an existence of endless, looped suspension, a life on hold not allowed to evolve. The dissolving frames have been slowed down to such an extent that the sparks of dust are the most tangible indication that time, after all, is passing.

New Life (Frankenstein drawn & quartered) echoes a scene from the original Frankenstein movie, in which Victor Frankenstein, intent on creating a being in his own image, has entered a graveyard under cover of darkness to dig up a body for his creature. He clutches the coffin of the appropriated corpse, and says, “He’s just resting, waiting for a new life to come.” With the original sound and vision drawn out to the edge of animation, Frankenstein endlessly metamorphoses into an anticipation of his own future creation. A sensation situated between nihilo, fear and existence is amplified by the scale of the modern Promethean endeavour, and the eerie implications of this new life. Also constructed from the dust of the past, the child as the fabricated double of the artist thus tragically transpires as yet another Frankenstein’s monster.

Reflecting these works are Autobiography (Mother’s Pie Wagon/S’cool Bus/Garbage Truck/Beer Wagon/Boot Hill Hearse) and Self Portrait (Frankenstein’s Flivver/revillF s’nietsneknarF). These painted pieces are assembled from model car parts exhumed from the artist’s glue-sniffing childhood, and reconstructed in the light of experience.

Beginning the show is The End (Mad Max + 90 x 4), projecting the final fading moments of the post-apocalyptic road movie into infinity.



Roy Exley, ‘Mark Dean: Dust’, Untitled 18 (Spring 1999)

Mark Dean is a film connoisseur who likes to re-cycle and re-invent iconic clips of classic film, whether it be Peeping Tom, the original Frankenstein, or film painstakingly excavated from the Imperial War Museum archives. There are traces of the obsessive around Dean’s oeuvre, suggestions of good old English eccentrism – a dying trait. His specialism is the re-invention, the transmutation of definitive celluloid moments into something infinitely more mesmeric. Dean’s video works, in this show at Laurent Delaye, drive themselves into the viewer’s psyche through their insistent repetitions, either rapid or langorous.

Dean’s work is preoccupied with re-working the past so that it can engage the present. Fragments of film, rescued from obsolescence, are melded into quasi-sacred video pieces which become sites of contemplation, the moment turned in on itself again and again in a mesmeric cycle of repetitions. Directly facing the viewer on entering the gallery is a wall-projection of Dean’s video work The End (Mad Max + 90 x 4), 1998. As poignant and riveting as Jim Morrison’s song of the same title, this piece has extracted the final few frames from Mad Max, where we speed down a road towards a seemingly infinite, flat horizon, in those last few moments prior to the fade. Dean not only sends these frames into an endless spasm of repetitions, but has also rotated the horizon through 90 degrees, four times (hence the title). The centre, however, is not quite in register so we witness four distinct lines of broken white road markings moving towards us, leaving a void in the centre of the screen into which our eyes are inexorably drawn, as if hurtling into an endless tunnel- an archetypal SF scenario. The dramatic effect of the final, postapocalyptic moments of Mad Max is magnified by Dean’s interventions, the viewer’s gaze trapped by the involutions of that recurrent moment. Suspended in that instant, reflections well up – where was your life at when you first watched Mad Max?, much in the vein of ‘Where were you when you first heard of Kennedy’s assassination or Diana’s death?: Paradoxically, through his iconoclastic snatching of film fragments, Dean’s re-working re-inforces our past experience of that film, while at the same time hauling it into the present.

In The Transparency of Evil, Jean Baudrillard stated that “A photographic image must have the quality of a universe from which the subject has withdrawn (but must be allowed to reenter).” Mark Dean facilitates these re-entries into this universe through his work. He disempowers the narrative by interrupting its flow, giving the viewer a more objective experience of its armatures- its visual props – so that the abstracted scene becomes a universe of its own which we continually enter, withdraw and re-enter, invoking shades of that hypnagogic state between waking and sleep.

Dean’s New Life (Frankenstein Drawn and Quartered), 1998, is a video piece which is much more torpid in its demeanour, in fact the cyclical, repetitive changes are so muted as to be almost undetectable, as a barely-human countenance evolves and transmutes into a pseudo-beast from hell, only to return again to its former state. Not only are the changes painfully slow, but they are also extremely marginal, it becomes an effort to recall the other materialisation when its opposite is current. Here, Dean transposes two adjacent moments from the original film, during the exhumation scene, accompanied by its eerily grating synthesised sound-track. Untitled (My Way Home+-,resting pulse) has an autobiographical slant, whereby through an autobiographical film by Bill Douglas, Dean superimposes his own autobiographical reflections on the image of a young Douglas, played in the film by Stephen Archibald. Again slowed down so that it hovers between the film-still and its movie, an almost moribund state, this extract suggests that limbo of the hypnagogic state, or, more ominously, that between life and death. A young boy’s head on a pillow appears motionless, time is arrested, but this is a video monitor so let’s wait and see, wait and see, wait, wait, wait and see. Like searching for signs of life on Mars, patience and perspicacity are finally rewarded by what seems to be a faint flush of life. You need plenty of time on your hands to appreciate this show, in which life and death are constant companions, vying with each other across the uncertainties of time.

Dean cleverly plays with and distorts our perception of time: in how many ways can it link life and death? His video work currently showing in Heavier than Air at the Imperial War Museum is taken from film footage from a camera gun in a Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf 190 as it closes in on a U.S. Air Force Boeing B-17, which parallels the feeling of disappearing down a tunnel in the Mad Max piece, in this instance tracer bullets replace road-markings, but the imminence of death still hovers over the scenario. Dean told me of the disquieting hours he spent in the Museum perusing camera-gun footage whose visuals were just as disturbing as watching a never-ending snuff-movie – the horrors of war reduced to celluloid spectacle. Dean’s intelligently wrought pieces are defeated by the peremptory glance but, conversely, intensified and consummated by the prolonged and discerning gaze, their subtlety calls for a patient response, their intentionality only realised and reached through the viewer’s participation.