Anyone who chooses to make a film has a personal relationship with their subject- whether its intimate, voyeuristic, educational or fantastical, film makers have the key to expressing themselves. Steve McQueen is the master of getting the most out of his subjects, and there is a unique level of trust and intimacy.
As an award-winning artist, McQueen has always been adept at expressing himself, and his work explores themes of representation and his experiences as a working-class boy growing up in 1980s suburbia, with his first film, Bear, consisting of two naked men, one of them him, wordlessly circling each other, staring and sparring like bears.
The Steve McQueen exhibition at the Tate Modern, showcases some of his lesser known works- although as intimate and uncomfortable as his feature film “12 Years a Slave”, they all offer a comment on power and authority, and the choice between collaboration and resistance.
From his earliest film, “Exodus” which was shot on Super 8 film, which reflects on multiculturalism in London, his protagonists’ frustration is always privately contained, never shared or explored through dialogue; Further films include the beautifully haunting, large screen looping video entitled “Ashes”, which is a continuous single shot of a young, topless fisherman, at sea in Grenada. He is aware that he is being filmed, but the silent, haunting bobbing of the waves are mesmerising. This is even more poignant as this young man was murdered by drug dealers the following year.
Using films as a platform to represent intimacy, all his works question authority in one way or another and blur boundaries of what is expected from a filmmaker.
From an intimate close up of nipples being self-fondled, to a hypnotic short film focussing on “Charlotte”’s eyes, to singer Tricky recording his “Girls” single, McQueen gets the most out of his subjects, and the 14 major works spanning film, photography and sculpture will inspire and unsettle.
Visit the exhibition at the Tate Modern, London until 11th may 2020.