Ever wondered what would happen to a book if it sat in a stream of saltwater for six weeks? Probably not, but now you have, and you can see the result in Tacita Dean
’s photograph, The Book End of Time
(2013), at Frith Street Gallery’s Frieze London booth.
The book in question, J.G. Ballard’s short story “The Voices of Time” (1960), ties to Dean’s new film, JG. Inspired by her own correspondence with Ballard, and his story as an interesting comparison to land artist Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), Dean trekked to the sites of these works, the salt planes of California and Utah. JG is full of Dean’s meditations on time, using “The Voices of Time” and Spiral Jetty as counterpoints to consider geological time, cosmic time, and nature’s time. At a potash plant in Utah, Dean conducted her saline-book experiment, resulting in a very fragile, crystallized object, vaguely resembling a book.
As the object was too fragile to move, Dean adopted photography to document the piece, adding an element of mystery. Upon viewing the image without any context it could be interpreted as naturally occurring object, the crystal overtaking almost all man-made properties. Set in an empty gray space, the book is frozen, sitting precariously on its spine—a poignant statement about the mutual interferences of man and nature.